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Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Vermont

The State of Vermont statutes permit the expungement or sealing of criminal records under specific circumstances. Sealing and expunging a criminal record in Vermont means that all records documenting an individual’s contact with the criminal justice system are permanently or partially removed from public view. To seal or expunge a criminal record, the crime for which the relief is sought must be eligible for the process. Interested persons must file a petition with the sentencing Vermont Court. Also, aside other conditions or circumstances that may apply, individuals seeking expungement in Vermont must have no pending charges. They must have also completed and obeyed the terms of the sentencing.

The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records

In most cases, a Vermont sealing order has the same effect as an expungement order. By removing criminal records from public view, an expungement order provides the opportunity to lawfully claim that an arrest or conviction never occurred. It destroys conviction records and removes them from all criminal records databases. As a result, neither the public nor law enforcement can access the deleted record.

In contrast, when a criminal record is sealed, it is moved to a secure storage and made confidential or inaccessible. The courts and law enforcement agencies keep sealed records physically intact for future criminal investigation and justice purposes. In summary, while an expunged record cannot be accessible to anyone or entity, sealed records can be available to certain individuals and entities with a formal court order.

How to Seal a Criminal Record in Vermont

Vermont generally recognizes expungement and sealing as the same processes because they have the same effect in most contexts. Therefore, according to state laws, the same steps apply when requesting to seal or expunge a criminal record.

Not all state crimes are eligible for sealing, hence, some requirements must be met to qualify. Generally, the individual seeking expungement must complete the sentence and obey all terms attached to it. This includes paying all restitution, surcharges, and public defender fees. Other eligibility requirements depend on if the crime qualifies for sealing.

If the crime of conviction qualifies for expungement, the individual can petition the court if;

  • ten years have passed since the completion of the sentence
  • there has been no other misdemeanor conviction in 5 years
  • there has been no felony conviction in 7 years.

Overall, when the court grants the order to seal a criminal record, the court’s response to the record’s inquiry is that no records exist.

What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Vermont

The state permits certain misdemeanor and felony convictions to be expunged under the right circumstances. According to law, to expunge these convictions from an individual’s records, they have to be qualifying crimes. The qualifying crimes include certain felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions, offenses pardoned by the governor, and dismissed charges.

Fourteen felonies qualify for expungement in Vermont. They include;

  • Burglary into an unoccupied building
  • Issuing forged or counterfeited instrument
  • Grand larceny
  • Criminal/unlawful mischief
  • Crimes related to fraud or deceit
  • Possession of marijuana
  • Possession of cocaine
  • Possession of LSD
  • Possession of heroin
  • Possession of narcotic drugs
  • Possession of methamphetamine
  • Possession of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine
  • Possession of hallucinogenic drugs
  • Possession of ecstasy

Furthermore, most misdemeanor offenses qualify for expungement except violent and sex offense misdemeanors and most driving related crimes. For instance, if an individual has one DUI conviction, it can be sealed or expunged according to law. But if there are multiple DUI convictions, the court will not allow the expungement of any of them.

Any offense, felony, or misdemeanor, for which an offender has been granted an unconditional pardon, is eligible for expungement. Equally, all dismissed charges that did not result in a conviction can be expunged. Vermont Courts are mandated by law to automatically seal dismissed charges 60 days after the case is dismissed.

Finally, most crimes, except violent and sexual-related offenses, are eligible for expungement. Expungement of such records is only available on the condition that the individual that committed the crime was less than 21 years old at the time of conviction.

How to Expunge Criminal Records in Vermont

The following is the process of seeking expungement of conviction records in Vermont:

  • Request and review the criminal record

Individuals seeking expungement are advised to request their criminal records from the court or the Vermont Crime and Information Center (VCIC). When the document is received, a thorough examination should be done to ensure no outstanding sentences, fines, or pending charges. The presence of any of these will delay expungement or make it impossible.

  • Address all outstanding obligations

If there are any outstanding fines, sentences, restitution, and surcharges, they must be paid or completed before filing for expungement. The court will not permit the filing of petitions to expunge or seal until all the sentence requirements have been obeyed.

  • File the Petition to expunge or seal criminal history

The petitioner must complete and file a Petition to Expunge or Seal Criminal History form which can be obtained from the court or the Vermont Judiciary website.

The court demands a filing fee that must be filed with the petition. Petitioners who are unable to make the payment can complete and file the Application to Waive Filing Fees.

  • Serve the respondents

The major respondents in an expungement case are the prosecuting attorney and the victim. The court clerk must provide the respondents with a copy of the petition for review and response. If any of the respondents disagree with the petition, the court will schedule a hearing. The petitioner must be present at these hearings to avoid getting the case dismissed. But if the respondents agree, the court may grant the petition without a hearing.

If the court grants the petition, it will issue a certificate to prove that the offense has been expunged or sealed. Afterward, the Vermont Crime and Information Center will expunge or seal the criminal records in its possession within 60 days. If the petition is denied, another can be filed in 2 years unless otherwise authorized by the court.

Do Sealed Records Show up In Vermont Background Checks?

No, records sealed or expunged in Vermont are not visible in background checks.

In general, the state’s official background checks show records of convictions dating back to 1955. Still, they do not include juvenile conviction records, arrest records with no convictions, and expunged or sealed records. This is because, when the court gives an order or for a criminal record to be expunged or closed, the VCIC staff clear all details relating to the case and remove them for state-run background checks.

Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Vermont?

Although it is not always the case, sealed records in Vermont remain open and accessible to courts and law enforcement agencies. Sealing orders and expungement orders typically have similar effects on criminal records but they differ based on how the records are managed. When a record is expunged, all its details are deleted and inaccessible to the public or law enforcement. In contrast, sealing orders remove the records from public view, but the court still maintains them, and they remain accessible to law enforcement. Thus, only sealed records remain visible to law enforcement.

How to Obtain Sealed Records in Vermont

Expunged records in Vermont are inaccessible, but sealed records can be viewed by court order. The interested party must file a motion for access for part or all of the sealed documents. The motion must include specific details about the case file to which access is sought, including the case caption and docket number. Before the court addresses the case, the motion must be served on all parties involved, after which the court will schedule a hearing to grant or deny access to the record.

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