An old criminal conviction on your record may come back to haunt you years after you’ve thought about it. With the downturn in the economy back around 2007 and a tighter job market, a lot of people found out that old convictions on their criminal records were preventing them from getting a job that they wanted. Likewise, you may not think about an old conviction until you’re turned away at the border while trying to travel to a foreign country like Canada.
Many people may have been convicted of a crime when they are younger and then forget about it as they get older because it does not affect their day-to-day lives. It’s unfortunate when an old conviction reappears because the process to have a conviction removed from your record can be fairly straight forward in New Hampshire. It usually takes a few months, however, so you do not want to wait until you need the conviction removed from your record in order to start.
New Hampshire RSA 651: 6 lays out the criteria and time periods that you need to know to have a conviction removed from your records. In New Hampshire this process is known as the “annulment process” as opposed to other states which may talk about a record being “expunged”.
The first requirement to be eligible for an annulment is to remain of good behavior for a period of time after the end of your sentence. Most people receive some kind of suspended or deferred sentence after their conviction or period of incarceration. This is the period in which a person is not incarcerated but has made an agreement with the State that if they commit any further crimes, the State may petition the Court to impose additional jail time. The end of your sentence is when you have completed this amount of suspended time and fulfilled all other requirements of the sentence like the payment of restitution or community service.
Once you complete your sentence, you have to be of good behavior for a period of time before the Court will grant you an annulment. Good behavior means that you do not commit any new local, state or federal crimes, including major motor vehicle violations. Major motor vehicle violations include offenses like DWI, reckless driving or Operating without a License.
The period of time that you must wait before the court will grant your Petition to Annul varies depending on the level of the offense as follows:
- Finding of Not Guilty or Dismissal of Charges: 30 days after ruling
- Violation: one year
- Class B misdemeanor: two years
- Class A misdemeanor: three years
- Class B felony: five years
- Class A felony: 10 years
There are some specific offenses which have different waiting periods in order to be eligible for annulment. For example, although a DWI charge is only a class B misdemeanor and, in some instances, can be reduced to a violation level offense, this will stay on a criminal record for ten years. This period allows the state to look back through a person’s criminal history in the event that they get arrested for a second DWI offense within ten years.
One important provision of the annulment statute is that if you apply too early for an annulment and get denied, the Court may make you wait an additional three years before you can file another petition. This is why it is important to speak with a lawyer before you file your Petition to Annul to get an opinion on the correct timing and form of your petitions.
Once your record is annulled in New Hampshire, you are put back in the same position you were legally before the conviction ever occurred. Therefore, if you are asked a question on an application like, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime which has not been annulled?”, you’re answer should be no, you’ve never been convicted of a crime. You would also not have to disclose the conviction on some, but not all, legal forms. Importantly, the record of conviction is removed from the public court records and should not be further disclosed.
At Welts, White and Fontaine we handle every aspect of the annulment process for you from review of your entire criminal history in New Hampshire through working with the Records Division of the New Hampshire State Police to actually having your record of arrest or conviction removed from the state and national database.
For more information on any of your questions regarding annulling your criminal record. Please contact us by clicking here or by calling (603) 883-0797. Welts, White & Fontaine is one of Nashua’s largest, multi-practice law firms and serves the legal needs of both individuals and businesses in towns such as Amherst, Milford, Hudson, Brookline, Windham, Hollis, Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Londonderry, Pelham, and, of course, Nashua.
Author: David C. Tencza
This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion.