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  • Can I Expunge a Domestic Violence Case in New Mexico?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    domestic violenceA criminal record can have drastic long-term effects on your life. A domestic violence criminal record can be particularly damaging socially and professionally. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence in the past and are applying for a job—when you hear the dreaded words “background check,” your heart probably sinks. Perhaps a brief lapse in judgment in a past relationship is now following you around like a black cloud. It is essential to understand that even if you were acquitted or the charges were dismissed, your arrest will still appear on your criminal record. Clearing your record can lift an immense weight off your shoulders. If you are wondering if your New Mexico domestic violence case may be expunged, contact us today to discuss your options.

    What Is an Expungement?

    In general, an expungement is a process of erasing or destroying a criminal record. Sometimes you may hear the terms expungement and sealing your record used interchangeably. The distinction between expungement and sealing is that with sealing, the record still technically exists in the legal and physical sense. When you expunge a case, however, the record is typically erased, destroyed, or deleted entirely. 

    New Mexico Criminal Record Expungement Act

    In New Mexico, as in many other states, there are different rules for expunging a criminal record based on whether or not you were convicted.

    In January 2020, New Mexico expanded its expungement statute. The law now allows an expungement for arrests with and without convictions in all but the most severe crimes.

    Before this change to the law, an individual arrested and charged with any offense in New Mexico would have a permanent, publicly accessible record, even if they were never convicted of the crime.

    Expungement of Records Without a Conviction

    In New Mexico, if you were arrested or charged with a crime that did not result in a conviction, you can delete the record one year after the date of the final disposition. Specifically, if you were released without conviction for a violation of a municipal ordinance, misdemeanor, or felony, you could petition the district court where your charges originated for an expungement. You might be able to get the arrest records and public records related to that case expunged.

    Expungement of Records with a Conviction

    The 2020 change in New Mexico law also expanded expungement eligibility for criminal convictions. It allows an individual following the completion of their sentence to expunge their conviction for a violation of a municipal ordinance, misdemeanor, or felony by petitioning the district court where they were convicted for an order to delete arrest records and public records related to that conviction.

    How Do I Expunge My Domestic Violence Case?

    You might be thinking, Is my domestic violence conviction eligible for expungement? The simple answer is that it might be. 

    The New Mexico Crimes Against Household Members Act makes it illegal to commit an assault or battery against a household member. In other words, the Act criminalizes domestic violence under the law. Despite the term, household members do not have to reside together and are defined as:

    • Spouse or former spouse,
    • Parent,
    • Present or former stepparent,
    • Current or former in-law,
    • Grandparent, and
    • Co-parent of a child or a person with whom a person has a dating or intimate relationship.

    In New Mexico, a Crimes Against Household Members Act conviction is considered a first-degree felony. As required by the expungement statute, a first-degree felony is eligible for expungement 10 years after the date of sentence completion. For instance, suppose you were convicted of domestic violence assault and completed your jail time and supervision (e.g., parole) in January 2020. The earliest you would be eligible for expungement is 10 years from the date of successful completion—or January 2030.

    Domestic Violence Charge but No Conviction

    The implementation of the “expungement without a conviction” portion of the statute allows individuals accused, charged, or arrested for particular domestic violence offenses to expunge that record. 

    Whether you made a wrong decision with a toxic ex-partner or took a confrontation too far with a parent or in-law, you might be able to shed that record. Contact our knowledgeable attorneys to discuss the specifics of your case. 

    Timeframe for Expungements

    The degree of the crime will determine how long you must wait following the completion of your sentence before petitioning the court for an expungement. You would have to wait the following amounts of time for the following types of convictions:

    • Two years for a misdemeanor or municipal ordinance conviction,
    • Four years for a fourth-degree felony conviction,
    • Six years for a third-degree felony conviction,
    • Eight years for a second-degree felony conviction, and
    • Ten years for a first-degree felony conviction or a conviction for any offense defined in the Crimes Against Household Members Act.

    The waiting periods are long. But once you become eligible, an attorney can help you expedite the expungement process.

    Ineligible Offenses 

    Although the 2020 amendment expanded expungement eligibility, certain crimes still cannot be expunged, including the following:

    • Sex Crimes: According to New Mexico law, convictions for sexual assault or any sexual offense are not eligible for expungement; 
    • Crimes Involving Children: Any crime committed against a child is ineligible for expungement; and 
    • Violent Crimes: Violent crimes that result in great bodily harm or death (e.g., homicide, manslaughter, aggravated assault) are not eligible for expungement.

    Your domestic violence conviction might fall into one of these categories. If it does, you may not be eligible for an expungement. 

    How to Get a Domestic Violence Case Expunged in New Mexico?

    The expungement process can be complex and tedious. A criminal defense attorney can assist you with the process and eliminate any snags that could cost you time along the way. You will especially want to meet with an attorney if you are looking to expunge a domestic violence offense to ensure you are eligible. Typically, you expunge a case by doing the following: 

    • Locating your records;
    • Completing the appropriate expungement forms; 
    • Reviewing each court case; 
    • Petitioning to expunge each court case;
    • Attaching arrest records, court records, and sentencing records to your petition;
    • Making copies of everything;
    • Filing the petition and paying the fee; and
    • Providing documents and notice of the petition to all interested agencies. 

    Your lawyer will help you with this process.

    New Mexico Domestic Violence Expungement Lawyers

    A domestic violence conviction can tarnish your reputation and make it difficult to find and keep gainful employment. A domestic violence conviction also carries a negative social stigma that can be hard to shake. If you made a mistake in the past and are looking to reclaim your life, contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices to begin work on your expungement petition. We are always available to take your call!