Expungement: Now Easier or Harder?

June was a busy month in Wisconsin related to the issue of expungement.  The legislature proposed a new bill that would allow those currently eligible for expungement additional opportunities to have a court consider granting expungement.  However, a recent Supreme Court of Wisconsin decision seems to have made it more difficult for offenders to realistically complete their sentence and obtain expunction.  This post will examine both the new proposed law and the Court’s decision.  Importantly, should you have any questions about expunction, the best place to call would be to your original criminal trial counsel.

Modification to Expunction Statute

Found in Section 973.015, a judge can order a youthful offender’s record expunged if certain conditions are met:

  • Offender was under 25 at the time of the commission of the offense;
  • The maximum term of imprisonment is 6 years or less (Class H and I felonies, and all misdemeanors);
  • The court orders at the time of sentencing that the offender’s record be expunged upon successful completion of his sentence.

The modification allows an offender to petition the court for expungement after completing the sentence even if the court did not order expungement at the time of sentencing.  Even if the court denies the petition, the offender can file a new petition in two years.  Finally, and most importantly, the law would apply retroactively to all offenses.  This means that expungement would now be available to countless individuals who were sentenced without having the opportunity for expungment.

Supreme Court Decision

In State v. Ozuna, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin made it far more difficult for offenders to “successfully” complete their sentence.  Ozuna pled to misdemeanor offenses and was given probation.  The sentencing court granted expungement upon successful completion of his probation.  However, during the term of his probation, he received an underage drinking ticket.  Because one of his conditions of probation was absolute sobriety and he violated that condition, the Supreme Court held that he did not satisfy the conditions of his probation and therefore could not have his conviction expunged.

Currently, the DOC would send a certificate of completion to the circuit court to prove the probationer completed probation.  Now, the circuit court can get involved and question whether the probationer actually satisfied all of the conditions of probation.  This ruling may in effect require 100% perfect completion of probation, which in reality, is quite difficult to do for many probationers.

Want to Talk About Expungement With a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Expungement seems to be a hot-button topic in Wisconsin and that will likely continue into the future.  It is crucial for your criminal law attorney to request expungement at sentencing, because that is still what is required by the current law.  But if you complete your sentence and a court denies expungement based on a few missteps while on probation, do not give up hope.  Contacting a top Milwaukee criminal defense firm is always a good idea when your life is on the line.