Unlike other states, Arizona has no formal process to expunge one’s criminal records. If a person gets convicted of a crime in Arizona, there will be a permanent record of that fact, and the conviction may come up in future job interviews and the like.

However, Arizona does allow judges to give certain criminal defendants the benefit of what is called a set aside. As the name implies, a set aside literally means that a criminal conviction has, after the fact, been legally set aside.

While a set aside does not undo one’s criminal history, it can benefit a person in a lot of ways. For one, it can mean that a person can have certain civil rights restored. It also can leave a positive impression on prospective employers, as it means that the person completed all the terms of his sentence and has not faced additional criminal charges.

Not every criminal conviction can be set aside, and, in other cases, a set aside will do little to help a person avoid the so-called collateral consequences of their criminal conviction. For example, sex crimes and crimes against children under 15 cannot be set aside, and a set aside may not help a person avoid license suspensions and other administrative penalties associated with traffic violations.

In order to set aside a conviction, an eligible person has to file a petition with the appropriate court. Arizona judges do have the authority to set aside federal offenses in some situations, but they cannot set aside convictions out of other states. The court can then decide whether to grant or deny the set aside.