The state of Wisconsin refers to the sealing of criminal records and the physical destruction of court documents as expunction rather than expungement. Expunged records can be obtained from a variety of law enforcement agencies, including the booking agency, the arresting agency, the prosecutor, the Division of Public Safety, and the Department of Corrections.
According to the court, certain records may be destroyed. Under certain conditions, a misdemeanor may be expunged. These include completing the probationary period, being under the age of twenty-one at the time of the criminal offense—though not at the time of the plea, society not being harmed, and the individual benefiting from the granted expunction—including licensing, appointments, and employment. The individual in question must not have committed any additional offenses or violated the terms of his or her probation.
Expunction is also available in Wisconsin for drug-related offenses. A person will plead guilty under a deferred prosecution, but the court will not issue a judgment until the probationary period has expired. If the individual has complied with all of the conditions and terms of the probation, the case will be dismissed after this time period. Attending treatment, remaining a law-abiding citizen, abstaining from alcohol, and other conditions may apply. Because there is no conviction when a case is dismissed, an arrest and probationary period for a drug-related offense are eligible for expunction.
Expunction removes a previous criminal record from public and law enforcement databases. This enables a person to legally claim that he or she never committed a crime, was never arrested, and was never convicted. All open records, according to Wisconsin law, can be accessed for civil purposes, such as a public inspection when considering employment. Although a previous criminal record may be expunged, a background investigation may uncover additional information that raises questions about a previous record and may even result in the denial of an offer of employment.
Wisconsin law places restrictions on the types of criminal records that can be expunged. Misdemeanor offenses may be expunged under favorable circumstances in Wisconsin, but felony offenses cannot be expunged under most circumstances. Every rule, however, has an exception. Certain crimes can be expunged even if they would not have been otherwise under pardoning and deferred prosecution.
Unlike the majority of states, Wisconsin does not automatically expunge juvenile records simply because a criminal offense has been adjudicated. However, because the majority of juvenile circumstances are favorable, expunction is usually possible. Just because a case was handled in juvenile court does not mean it will be automatically dismissed. This is true whether the case was handled in adult court or not. All cases are reviewed individually, and not all expunction requests are granted.
Because each case is unique and often difficult, it is strongly recommended that an individual consult with a criminal defense attorney before petitioning the court for record expunction or sealing.