In 2012 Vermont adopted, for the first time, a procedure by which a limited number of Vermont state criminal convictions may be expunged. Under the expungement law, 13 VSA §7601, many types of misdemeanor convictions and two types of felony convictions may be expunged.
All misdemeanor convictions qualify for expungement EXCEPT: stalking, domestic assault, reckless endangerment, violation of abuse prevention orders or similar orders, prohibited acts under 13 VSA §2632, abuse of vulnerable adult, unlawful restraint or neglect of vulnerable adult, DUI, and attempts to commit any of these.
The only two felony offenses that qualify for expungement are unlawful mischief with damage exceeding $1000, and grand larceny.
A person convicted of an offense qualifying for expungement can not apply for expungement until 10 years since the date of successful release from probation for the conviction, with no other criminal convictions in the intervening 10 years. If there is any intervening conviction, the person must wait 20 years from successful release from probation.
A person seeking expungement must file a petition with the court of conviction, together with an $80 filing fee. This petition is also served on the prosecutor’s office. If there is no timely objection from the prosecutor’s office, the Court may go ahead and expunge the conviction. If there is an objection from the prosecutor’s office, the Court will schedule a hearing, and will then issue an order granting or denying the expungement based on the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing.
The instructions regarding petitioning for expungement may be found HERE
And the Petition form may be found HERE
Under federal law, any person convicted of a crime that has a potential sentence of 1 year or more, or which is classified by a state as a misdemeanor but has a potential sentence of 2 years or more, is prohibited from possessing firearms. Additionally anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is also prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law. (Note that these are only a few of the 9 categories of persons prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law.)
The Vermont expungement process can help some--but by no means most--Vermonters with prior criminal convictions regain their ability to lawfully possess firearms under federal law.
Anyone with a Vermont felony unlawful mischief or grand larceny conviction is presently prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law. If they otherwise qualify -- released from probation at least 10 years ago, and no intervening convictions -- and have no other disqualifications under federal or state law, then an expungement would restore these individuals to their lawful firearms possession rights.
Individuals with domestic violence misdemeanor convictions are prohibited from possessing firearms, and do not qualify for Vermont expungement. Under federal firearms law, those individuals are prohibited from possessing firearms even if the charges were amended to simple assault or disorderly conduct rather than domestic assault, unless the underlying facts of the case were also amended to eliminate the reference to the qualifying domestic relationship. However, individuals who were originally charged with domestic assault, but pled guilty or were found guilty of another charge such as simple assault or disorderly conduct, may qualify for Vermont expungement and thus restore their firearms rights.
The expungement process and petition is designed so that Vermont residents can complete and submit it without needing an attorney. However, having an attorney review the petition to assure that you are eligible, and to engage in any necessary conversations with the prosecutor’s office or court clerks, as well as represent you at hearing if one is scheduled, can help ensure that your rights and interests are protected and relieve some of the anxiety of dealing with court processes. A Vermont criminal defense attorney would be most familiar with the expungement process and be able to help you obtain and interpret your court records.