Wyoming law firm helps expunge criminal records with online tool

Oct. 3—CHEYENNE — Trying to expunge a criminal record can be a confusing, expensive process. According to one attorney, it doesn't have to be.

Alex Freeburg, with Jackson-based Freeburg Law LLC, has a free tool some people may be able to use to seal their criminal records. Individuals can find the documents for free online, rather than hiring an attorney. For $1,100, the law firm says you can hire it for this job.

"On the one hand, there's some legal nuance some of the time. On the other hand, it's pretty dang close to filling out a form," Freeburg said in an interview. "And so I was like, 'Well, we can solve that with software.'"

Expungement can have a profound impact on a person, as having a criminal history can make it harder to find employment or housing, along with other opportunities, according to Equal Justice Wyoming.

Although it's a politically conservative state, Wyoming is "actually pretty liberal" when it comes to record expungement "if enough time has passed," Freeburg said.

Because the law can be complicated, some people will need a lawyer to expunge their records. Freeburg said people with relatively simple cases, such as a single misdemeanor, can easily complete the forms.

The law firm launched the tool in mid-August. Since then, at least one person has used it and submitted paperwork to the courts, Freeburg said. Several have started the process.

If all goes well, Freeburg said, the firm may do something similar with protection orders.

Freeburg Law also has offices in Cheyenne and Rock Springs.

Requirements

Under Wyoming statute, people who have been arrested but not convicted may seek expungement starting 180 days after an arrest or since charges were dismissed.

Petitioners cannot have any remaining pending charges or convictions related to the arrest. There is no filing fee.

People with misdemeanor convictions can petition a court for expungement five years after a sentence, including probation, has been completed. The period shortens to one year if the offense was something that was only illegal because of someone's age, such as underage drinking. There is a $100 filing fee.

Those convicted of felonies must wait 10 years after completing a sentence and must have fully paid any restitution. Some types of felonies, such as violence or child abuse, cannot be expunged. A $300 filing fee is required.

For arrests, at least 20 days must pass from the petition being served upon the prosecuting attorney before a court can grant an expungement. The prosecutor has up to 20 days to make an objection, and if one is filed, a hearing will be set.

For misdemeanors, the waiting period is 30 days, and any identifiable victims will be notified. A hearing will be set if either the prosecuting attorney or a victim objects to expungement within that 30 days.

For felonies, the prosecuting attorney or a victim must object within 90 days, and then there would be a hearing. An order for expungement can be made 90 days after the petition was served to the prosecutor.

Misdemeanors or felonies involving the use or attempted use of a firearm cannot be wiped away from one's record.

Courts can request information about the person's criminal history from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. There could be a hearing if a petitioner objects to this DCI report.

If there are no objections, a court can expunge a person's record and seal the court file, making sure it cannot be accessed by the public. The state, through prosecuting attorneys, could appeal.

A person with a juvenile conviction, other than a violent felony, can petition for expungement once they turn 18.

Hannah Black is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at hblack@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3128. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahcblack.