Rare Supreme Court Opinion Addressing Expungements

By Geoffrey Calderaro

Geoffrey F. Calderaro

Mississippi Supreme Court decisions on expungements are rare. However, on September 26, 2019, the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down its decision in Ferguson v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety, reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstating the judgment of the circuit court requiring Ferguson to continue to register as a sex offender despite her expungement.

Ferguson pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense of disseminating sexually-oriented material to a minor. As a result of her conviction, Ferguson had to register as a sex offender. Five years after her conviction Ferguson successfully filed an expungement petition. Despite the expungement, she was still required to register as a sex offender. In response, Ferguson filed a complaint against the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS), seeking to be relieved from her duty to register as a sex offender. The circuit court denied Ferguson’s request.

Ferguson appealed and the Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court and held that Ferguson was no longer required to register as a sex offender. After MDPS’ Petition for Writ of Certiorari was granted by the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals holding that Miss. Code Ann. § 45-33-55 exempts sex offenses from the laws of this state and court orders authorizing the expungement of criminal history records.

Therefore, according to the Mississippi Supreme Court, even if a sex offense is expungable, the duty to register as a sex offender, pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 45-33-55, is not extinguished by an expungement.

Importantly, this ruling does not limit the right to an expungement, which has never been more accessible in Mississippi.  If you have any questions about a conviction or arrest you would like to remove from your record, please contact Geoffrey Calderaro at (662) 234-8775 to discuss the possibility of expungement or you may email Geoffrey Calderaro at gcalderaro@holcombdunbar.com.

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