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How can a conviction in Arizona be 'set aside'?

One of the unfortunate consequences of being convicted of a crime is having a criminal record. Even once that person's jail sentence has been served, their criminal record will still be available to others, making it difficult to find a place to live, obtain employment or own a firearm.

This may seem unfair, as once a person serves their sentence, they deserve to be free to reintegrate back into society on a clean slate. For this reason, while in Arizona a judgment of guilt cannot be expunged, it can be "set aside."

Under Arizona law, if a person is found guilty of a crime and serves their sentence, at the time of discharge, they will be informed that they can apply to the judge who issued the sentence (or that judge's successor) to have the judgment set aside. If a judgment is set aside, any accusations or information will be dismissed, and the person seeking the set aside will be released from all the penalties that stem from a conviction, with some exceptions. Also, when a person's judgment is set aside, they may be allowed to own a firearm again, unless the conviction was one for a serious offense.

There are, of course, some exceptions wherein certain crimes cannot be set aside. For example, a conviction of a dangerous offense cannot be set aside. If a person must register as a sex offender, that judgment cannot be set aside. If a person's criminal offense was sexually motivated, it cannot be set aside. If a person commits a crime against a person age 14 or younger, the judgment cannot be set aside. Finally, certain vehicular offenses cannot be set aside.

As this shows, while it may be very desirable to have a judgment set aside, this area of law can be complicated, as there are many exceptions. Therefore, those seeking to have a judgment set aside may want to contact a criminal defense attorney to learn more about how to achieve this goal.

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