Rather than call it expungement, the state of Wisconsin calls the sealing of criminal records and the physical destroying of court documents expunction. The expunged records can come from various law enforcement sources that include the booking agency, the arresting agency, the prosecutor, the Division of Public Safety, and the Department of Corrections.
Certain records are at liberty to be destroyed as stated by the court. A misdemeanor may be expunged under particular circumstances. These include completion of probationary time period, the individual was under the age of twenty-one at the time of the criminal offense--though not at the plea, society will not be harmed, and the individual will benefit from the granted expunction--including licensing, appointments, and employment. The individual in question must not have committed any further offenses or violate the set probation.
Expunction is also available for drug-related offenses in Wisconsin. With a deferred prosecution an individual will plead guilty but the court will not pass a judgment until the probationary time period has ended. After this time period if the individual has been compliant to all conditions and terms of the probation, the case shall be dismissed. Conditions may include attending treatment, remaining a law-abiding citizen, abstaining from alcohol, and others. When the case is dismissed there is no conviction, thus an arrest and probationary time towards a drug-related offense is eligible for expunction.
Expunction erases a past criminal record from the view of the public as well as law enforcement databases. This allows an individual to legally assert that he or she never committed a crime, was never arrested, and was never convicted. According to Wisconsin law, all open records can be accessed for civil purposes such as for a public inspection when considering employment. Although a past criminal record may be expunged, a background investigation may unearth further information that could bring about questions in a past record and can even cause the denial of offered employment.
Limitations have been imposed under Wisconsin law on which criminal records are able to be expunged. As a general rule in the state of Wisconsin states that misdemeanor offenses may be expunged under favorable circumstances but felony offenses may not under most circumstances. There are exceptions to every rule however. Under pardoning and deferred prosecution certain crimes can be expunged even as they would not otherwise have been.
Unlike most states, Wisconsin does not automatically expunge juvenile records simple because a matter of criminal offense was adjudicated. However most circumstances for juvenile are favorable so expunction usually is possible. Simply because a matter was handled in juvenile court also does not mean it will automatically be expunged. This is the same for whether or not a case was handled in adult court. All cases must be reviewed separately and not all expunction requests are granted.
As each case is different and often difficult, it is strongly advised that an individual consult a criminal defense attorney before petitioning the court for record expunction or record sealing. See also:
Wisconsin Misdemeanor External link (opens in new window)
Wisconsin Felony External link (opens in new window)
Wisconsin Gun Laws External link (opens in new window)