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Mississippi Expungement Law Update

Mississippi Expungement Law Update

Geoffrey F. CalderaroMississippi Supreme Court decisions regarding expungements are rare. However, on September 25, 2018, the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down its decision in Ferguson v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety, reaffirming the Court’s 2015 Stallworth v. State decision. Ferguson v. Mississippi Dep’t of Pub. Safety, No. 2017-CA-00912-COA, 2018 WL 4572805 Miss. Ct. App. Sept. 25, 2018). Most importantly, the Court reaffirmed Stallworth’s critical language which provides that an expungement places a person in the position he or she held before the conviction.

Ferguson pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense of disseminating sexually oriented material to a minor. The circuit court gave Ferguson the maximum possible sentence: one year in the county jail. But the circuit court suspended all of Ferguson’s sentence and placed her on probation for a year. As a result of her conviction, Ferguson had to register as a sex offender. Approximately five years later, she filed a successful expungement petition. However, the MDPS refused Ferguson’s request for relief from her prior obligation to register as a sex offender. In other words, the circuit court held that Ferguson’s expungement did not relieve her of the obligation to register as a sex offender. Ferguson appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court for relief.

Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Stallworth, Ferguson argued that she should be relieved of the duty to register as a sex offender because her conviction had been expunged. The petitioner in Stallworth had been convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense in Maryland, and he received a suspended sentence and probation. A Maryland court later granted his request to expunge that conviction. Having moved to Mississippi, Stallworth unsuccessfully sought relief from the duty to register as a sex offender. The Supreme Court held that the expungement of an offense restored the petitioner to his pre-conviction status, and because he did not have a duty to register before the conviction, the expungement relieved Stallworth of any further duty to register after his expungement.

Affirming its Stallworth decision, our Supreme Court unequivocally held that “Mississippi law on the effect of an expungement … relieves [one] from the duty to register that he had before the expungement.” Because Ferguson had no duty to register as a sex offender before she was convicted, the expungement relieved her of any further duty to register. Thus, it necessarily followed that the circuit court erred when it held that Ferguson’s expungement did not relieve her of the obligation to register as a sex offender. Therefore, Ferguson no longer has to register as a sex offender.

Thus, an expungement places you back in the shoes you were in before the offense. Therefore, please give Geoffrey Calderaro a call at (662) 234-8775 and discuss how we can help expunge your record today!

By: Geoffrey F. Calderaro

2018