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Jacob A. Manian

Wisconsin Needs Expungement Reform

By December 7, 2021No Comments

You’re a successful, upstanding citizen, with a good job and happy family, who gives back to the community whenever you can.

Just after you turned 18, however, you had a run-in with the law that resulted in a criminal conviction.

Despite being on the straight and narrow, you’re haunted by that prior conviction, and you’d like it expunged from your records.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s current expungement statute likely does nothing to help you, even though you’ve reformed yourself and made positive strides in life.

The statute only applies to persons committing criminal offenses while 25 years old or younger, and only for offenses for which the maximum penalty is 6 years or less (with exclusions even for those offenses).

Further, expungement must be ordered at the time of sentencing–. the court must at that time make findings that the conviction will be expunged once the sentence is completed and that the public will not be harmed by expungement.

The statute does not help the vast majority of people who have made non-violent, criminal mistakes when young, but who have since turned their lives around.

The only available remedy to address an old conviction is to petition the Governor’s Pardon Advisory Board to request a pardon of the conviction.

Considering that a low-level criminal conviction can bar one from employment, housing, licenses, and other social and economic opportunities, Wisconsin is long-overdue for expungement reform.

Despite annual efforts from proponents of expungement reform, opponents in the legislature have prevented the enactment of positive changes.

Change will only come when the legislature votes to expand the statute’s reach.

For questions regarding whether someone might be eligible for expungement under Wisconsin’s current law, or for questions regarding Wisconsin’ pardon process, contact your FOS attorney.