Almost a year has gone by since New Mexico's Criminal Record Expungement Act went into effect on January 1, 2020. Since then, the courts have had to deal with a number of challenges on top of the influx the new expungement cases. Today we are providing an update as to how the expungement cases are going and answering questions that may be on your mind:
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected expungement cases?
Since March, most court hearings have been held virtually, either by a video conference like Google Meets or by telephone. In our experience, this has been very successful for expungement hearings. Virtual court hearings are especially beneficial for clients who live out of state because they do not need to travel to appear in court. Virtual Hearings also save our clients money because we spend less time attending hearings. Although the pandemic may have initially contributed to how quickly hearings have been set, we have not seen a significant slow down in the expungement process.
Additionally, we can do almost everything necessary to prepare an expungement petition remotely, including requesting records, preparing and filing the petition itself, and appearing for hearing. We can proceed with the expungement process without delay while also ensuring the safety of our clients and our firm.
How can I improve my chances of having my expungement request granted?
If you are requesting to expunge a conviction, the court must find that the expungement is in the interests of justice. This can be shown in a variety of ways – the length of time since the conviction, employment history, volunteer work, letters from friends and family and co-workers, etc. From our experience, judges have been impressed by those who have shown that their conviction was a turning point and that they have since followed a better path, such as through getting a degree or a steady job or used their experiences to help others. Be sure to document any volunteer work, update your resume, and keep copies of any awards and accolades. Start thinking about who would be willing to support you by writing a reference letter to the judge on your behalf.
Does the expungement case itself remain public even though the expungement is granted?
No. From our experience, the judges include the expungement case itself in the orders granting the expungement, which means that the expungement case itself is sealed along with the underlying criminal case. Alternatively, if necessary, we can file a motion to seal the expungement case.
In general, how are the expungement cases going?
So far, so good! We have not experienced any significant problems with the expungement process, but it is also still early in the life of this new statute. We are excited that expungement is becoming a reality for so many New Mexicans.