An upcoming event hosted by the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project (MVLP) will attempt to help Ole Miss students and members of the community clear their criminal records.
The MVLP partnered with the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association (MWLA), Black Law Student Association at the University of Mississippi School of Law, the Magnolia Bar Association and the Ole Miss Pro Bono Initiative to host a Know Your Rights expungement workshop in Oxford at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Families First/Family Resource Center.
E. Faye Peterson, founder and principal attorney of the Peterson Group, LLC and former Hinds County district attorney, will speak at the Oxford workshop and walk attendees through the process of expungement, which is the removal of a crime from an individual’s criminal record.
Ole Miss Pro Bono Initiative coordinator Bri Warner said the group thinks college students could greatly benefit from this workshop and others like it.
“We would really like to see a good number of college students at the expungement workshop, as college students might be especially likely to have records that are expungeable, whether that be a traffic violation or a conviction under the age of 21,” Warner said.
Gayla Carpenter-Sanders, the executive director and general counsel of the MVLP, explained which crimes can potentially be wiped from a person’s record.
“Most misdemeanor charges can be expunged,” Carpenter-Sanders said. “Most charges can be expunged if the charges were received before the age of 21. Also, charges that have been nolle prossed (no prosecution), remanded to the file or received a non-adjudication can be expunged.”
There are only six felony charges in Mississippi that can be expunged, according to Carpenter-Sanders. They are a bad check offense, possession of a controlled substance or paraphernalia, false pretense, larceny, malicious mischief and shoplifting.
Karen Peairs, Ole Miss law school assistant director of career services, said although the expungement process is not automatic, it can greatly impact a student’s life if he or she is able to obtain expungement.
“When students have called me about expungements in the past, many of them are trying to get something off their records so that they can get into graduate school or professional school,” Peairs said. “Expungements can also have an impact on getting jobs and/or housing.”
Carpenter-Sanders recalled Peterson saying at the last expungement workshop that foolish mistakes made in people’s late teens can haunt them for the rest of their lives. She said Peterson explained that potential employers check people’s criminal records, and if they have the choice to hire someone with a criminal record or without one, they will usually hire the person without a record.
“Expungements allow individuals to get a fresh start on life,” Carpenter-Sanders said. “So, if a student made a mistake in their teens, they don’t have to live with it when they are 40.”
Attendees do not have to register to participate in Tuesday’s workshop but are asked to bring several documents: a driver’s license or state-issued ID, records of any previous expungement, a copy of the sentencing order and any documents related to the incident seeking expungement.
Participants will also need to bring documents with details about their dispositions, dates of disposition, proof that terms of their sentences have been completed/complied with and an optional certificate showing that they have completed the terms of probation.
Eligible applicants from tomorrow’s workshop will be given information about an upcoming expungement clinic to be held March 23 in Oxford. Volunteer attorneys and students will draft expungement documents for approved applicants then, according to Warner.
People may be eligible for an expungement if they were not formally charged or prosecuted within 12 months of their arrest, the case was dismissed, the charges were dropped, there was no disposition of the case, the case was remanded to file, they received an order of nolle prosequi (no prosecution), the case was not indicted, they were sentenced to pre-trial diversion, they were placed on non-adjudicated probation or they were sentenced to Drug Court.
For more information, the public is asked to call 601-882-5001 or visit www.mvlp.org.
This article was submitted to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced reporting class.