SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Prepare now for free expungement clinic

Published 2:00 pm Friday, December 23, 2022

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NATCHEZ — A clean record may be a belated Christmas present to some who partake in a free expungement clinic at the Adams County Safe Room on Jan. 21, 2023.

The clinic lasts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 21, at the Safe Room at 323 Liberty Road, but there are steps that should be completed first, said Jacqueline Posey, who works in the records department at Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

“Their first step is to come to our office and do a background check,” Posey said. “Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., we’re open. Once they do that, we’ll let them know the next steps they need to go through. They will need a copy of their indictment, the sentencing order and the discharge order so that we can upload this information to the Mississippi Center for Justice to start the expungement process. When they get here on Jan. 21, they won’t have to do those steps.”

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Background checks are required to begin the expungement process, she said.

Posey said the expungement clinic is open to anyone in the State of Mississippi, not just residents of Adams County. However, they will need their records from whichever county their case was prosecuted in.

“We can do the background check here, but they would have to go back to their county and get their indictments, sentencing orders and all of that information if it was outside of Adams County,” she said.

A good reason to take advantage of the clinic is that it is free, Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said. The expungement clinic is sponsored by the Mississippi Center for Justice with assistance from the Adams County Board of Supervisors, the City of Natchez, The Hunter Lawfirm, and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office so that there is no fee.

“It is completely free, background checks from us included,” Patten said.

“Normally, the fee is about $750 to start the expungement process,” Posey added. “The Hunter Lawfirm, who is from here, has agreed to do it pro bono.”

This is the first clinic of its kind in Adams County, Patten said.

“When we had the Second Change Job Fair, that was part of it. But the need was so strong for this portion of it that we really wanted to focus on expungements. This is where it needs to start. … I don’t have the exact number but we have somewhere in excess of 40,000 people with misdemeanor charges without dispositions,” Patten said. “These clinics will help clean that up. It’s a statewide problem, not just us.”


What is expungement?

Expungement deletes a criminal record and restores those who are expunged to the status they had before the offense. The state removes the record from all official sources. Employers, landlords, and banks should not see an expunged record. The Mississippi Criminal Information Center (CIC) keeps a confidential file of expunged records that the district attorney can access to determine a first-time offender. The district attorney’s office keeps a non-public record for law enforcement purposes.

Mississippi law allows courts to expunge and destroy juvenile records. These records can be seen only by a court order.

Who is eligible to have their record expunged?

In general, you are eligible to have your record expunged if:

You were the victim of identity theft or mistaken identity; The case was dismissed or the charges were dropped; You were found not guilty; You were arrested for a misdemeanor but not formally charged or prosecuted within 12 months of the arrest; You were arrested for a misdemeanor and the charges were dismissed; Your first-time drug offense was dismissed and discharged after you successfully completed your probation; You were convicted of certain alcohol-related offenses prior to turning 21 and it has been one year since you completed your sentence; You were convicted in municipal court of one or more misdemeanors and it has been two years since your conviction; You were convicted of a first-time driving under the influence (DUI) offense and it has been five years since you completed your sentence; You were convicted in municipal court of a first-offense misdemeanor that is not a traffic violation; or

You were convicted of a felony offense and it has been five years since you completed your sentence.

There is no limit to how many dismissals or acquittals may be expunged. You may be eligible for an expungement of a conviction if you have misdemeanor convictions or a single felony conviction under Mississippi law. You may only have one felony offense expunged.

To be eligible to expunge a felony conviction, the offense cannot involve any of the following: a crime of violence; arson in the first degree; trafficking in controlled substances; a third, fourth, or subsequent driving under the influence (DUI); felon in possession of a firearm; failure to register as a sex offender; voyeurism; witness intimidation; abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable person; or embezzlement.

If you are uncertain whether you are eligible for expungement, consult with an attorney.