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Arizona Restore Rights and Set Aside Conviction Law

Tagged under: Law Resources Arizona Expeal
By Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi on December 14, 2015.

Arizona's State Flag.

Arizona's procedures to set aside your conviction as well as to restore your civil rights are outlined in Arizona Revised Statutes, Sections 13-904 to 912. Arizona does not allow the complete removal of a record, but it is one of the few that allows convictions to qualify. The text and commentary are both from December 14, 2015. Please make sure everything is still accurate.

A few key points to remember:

  • Restoring your right to carry or possess a firearm is never allowed if you are convicted of a dangerous felony, requires a ten-year waiting period for a serious felony, and a two-year waiting period for any other felony.
  • Setting aside your record does not erase it from your criminal history, but it does change its impact.
  • Certain felony convictions will still qualify, even if they included prison time or probation.

While we do our absolute best to make sure that our qualification form is completely accurate, no one other than an attorney licensed in Arizona will know for sure whether you qualify. They will review these same rules as well as case-law related to this statute to come to their decision.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-904

Suspension of civil rights and occupational disabilities.
A. A conviction for a felony suspends the following civil rights of the person sentenced:
1. The right to vote.
2. The right to hold public office of trust or profit.
3. The right to serve as a juror.
4. During any period of imprisonment any other civil rights the suspension of which is reasonably necessary for the security of the institution in which the person sentenced is confined or for the reasonable protection of the public.
5. The right to possess a gun or firearm.
B. Persons sentenced to imprisonment shall not thereby be rendered incompetent as witnesses upon the trial of a criminal action or proceeding, or incapable of making and acknowledging a sale or conveyance of property.
C. A person sentenced to imprisonment is under the protection of the law, and any injury to his person, not authorized by law, is punishable in the same manner as if such person was not convicted and sentenced.
D. The conviction of a person for any offense shall not work forfeiture of any property, except if a forfeiture is expressly imposed by law. All forfeitures to the state, unless expressly imposed by law, are abolished.
E. A person shall not be disqualified from employment by this state or any of its agencies or political subdivisions, nor shall a person whose civil rights have been restored be disqualified to engage in any occupation for which a license, permit or certificate is required to be issued by this state solely because of a prior conviction for a felony or misdemeanor within or without this state. A person may be denied employment by this state or any of its agencies or political subdivisions or a person who has had his civil rights restored may be denied a license, permit or certificate to engage in an occupation by reason of the prior conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if the offense has a reasonable relationship to the functions of the employment or occupation for which the license, permit or certificate is sought.
F. Subsection E of this section is not applicable to any law enforcement agency.
G. Any complaints concerning a violation of subsection E of this section shall be adjudicated in accordance with the procedures set forth in title 41, chapter 6 and title 12, chapter 7, article 6.
H. A person who is adjudicated delinquent under section 8-341 for a felony does not have the right to carry or possess a gun or firearm.

Commentary on Section 13-904

This is the section that outlines what a conviction for a felony does to you in terms of your civil rights. You lose the 5 rights listed. However, there are also protections established. A person’s testimony is protected, it is not considered invalid or weighted any less just because of a conviction.
A person who is incarcerated as a result of their conviction is given the full protection of the law, which means both civil rights and criminal protections remain in place. So if you slip and fall in prison or you are assaulted in prison, you can pursue those just the same as anyone who is not imprisoned.
Considering the way some law enforcement agencies have been treating civil forfeiture laws, another protection provided is quite important. All civil forfeiture – except for those expressly written into the law – is abolished. You can keep your property.
Arguably the most important factor for those who have successfully avoided recidivism is a regular income. The state of Arizona makes it clear that other than law enforcement agencies, no government agency is allowed to disqualify someone who has had their civil rights restored simply because they have a conviction, unless that conviction is related to the employment, license, permit, or certificate is related. For instance, a person with check fraud convictions will not be allowed to work in the accounting department of a city government, but should not have an issue getting a job as an auto mechanic in a city government’s maintenance department.
There are two responsibilities, however. First, any complaints related to job discrimination as a result of the conviction must be resolved through the state’s assigned procedures. Second, anyone who has been adjudicated delinquent in regards to the conditions of their felony sentence automatically loses the right to carry or possess a gun or firearm, regardless of whether their rights have been restored or not.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-905

Restoration of civil rights; persons completing probation.
A. A person who has been convicted of two or more felonies and whose period of probation has been completed may have any civil rights which were lost or suspended by the felony conviction restored by the judge who discharges him at the end of the term of probation.
B. On proper application, a person who has been discharged from probation either before or after adoption of this chapter may have any civil rights which were lost or suspended by the felony conviction restored by the superior court judge by whom the person was sentenced or the judge's successors in office from the county in which the person was originally convicted. The clerk of the superior court shall have the responsibility for processing the application on request of the person involved or the person's attorney. The superior court shall serve a copy of the application on the county attorney.
C. If the person was convicted of a dangerous offense under section 13-704, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. If the person was convicted of a serious offense as defined in section 13-706 the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for ten years from the date of his discharge from probation. If the person was convicted of any other felony offense, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for two years from the date of the person's discharge from probation.

Commentary on Section 13-905

In the event someone is convicted of two or more felonies and given probation, the judge discharging the person from their probation has the ability to restore any of the rights lost through the previous section.
The best part of this section is the fact that it is retroactive. Anyone who has been successfully discharged from probation may file an application in the court where they were discharged, requesting that their rights are restored. The application should be filed with the clerk of court, and the clerk is responsible to serve a copy on the county prosecutor.
There are some exceptions and restrictions. Dangerous offenders, those sentence under Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-704, are not allowed to ask for the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. Similarly, a person convicted of a serious or violent offense under Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-706, has to wait for ten years from the date they were officially discharged from probation before asking to restore their right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. Finally, any other felony conviction will establish a two-year waiting period before the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm can be restored.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-906

Applications by persons discharged from prison
A. On proper application, a person who has been convicted of two or more felonies and who has received an absolute discharge from imprisonment may have any civil rights which were lost or suspended by his conviction restored by the superior court judge by whom the person was sentenced or the judge's successors in office from the county in which the person was originally sentenced.
B. A person who is subject to subsection A of this section may file, no sooner than two years from the date of his absolute discharge, an application for restoration of civil rights that shall be accompanied by a certificate of absolute discharge from the director of the state department of corrections. The clerk of the superior court that sentenced the applicant shall have the responsibility for processing applications for restoration of civil rights upon request of the person involved, the person's attorney or a representative of the state department of corrections. The superior court shall serve a copy of the application on the county attorney.
C. If the person was convicted of a dangerous offense under section 13-704, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. If the person was convicted of a serious offense as defined in section 13-706, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for ten years from the date of his absolute discharge from imprisonment. If the person was convicted of any other felony offense, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for two years from the date of the person's absolute discharge from imprisonment.

Commentary on Section 13-906

In the event someone is convicted of two or more felonies and given prison time, a judge in the county where the person was sentenced has the ability to restore any of the rights lost through the previous section.
Anyone who has been successfully discharged from prison may file an application in the court where they were sentenced, requesting that their rights are restored, two years after their discharge from prison. The application should be filed with the clerk of court, and it must include a certified copy of the discharge from prison. The clerk is responsible to serve a copy on the county prosecutor.
Just like with the section governing people convicted of two or more felonies and given only probation, there are some exceptions and restrictions. Dangerous offenders, those sentence under Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-704, are not allowed to ask for the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. Similarly, a person convicted of a serious or violent offense under Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-706, has to wait for ten years from the date they were officially discharged from probation before asking to restore their right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. Finally, as mentioned above, any other felony conviction will establish a two year waiting period before the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm can be restored.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-907

Setting aside judgment of convicted person on discharge; application; release from disabilities; firearm possession; exceptions
A. Except as provided in subsection E of this section, every person convicted of a criminal offense, on fulfillment of the conditions of probation or sentence and discharge by the court, may apply to the judge, justice of the peace or magistrate who pronounced sentence or imposed probation or such judge, justice of the peace or magistrate's successor in office to have the judgment of guilt set aside. The convicted person shall be informed of this right at the time of discharge.
B. The convicted person or, if authorized in writing, the convicted person's attorney or probation officer may apply to set aside the judgment.
C. If the judge, justice of the peace or magistrate grants the application, the judge, justice of the peace or magistrate shall set aside the judgment of guilt, dismiss the accusations or information and order that the person be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction except those imposed by:
1. The department of transportation pursuant to section 28-3304, 28-3306, 28-3307, 28-3308 or 28-3319, except that the conviction may be used as a conviction if the conviction would be admissible had it not been set aside and may be pleaded and proved in any subsequent prosecution of such person by the state or any of its subdivisions for any offense or used by the department of transportation in enforcing section 28-3304, 28-3306, 28-3307, 28-3308 or 28-3319 as if the judgment of guilt had not been set aside.
2. The game and fish commission pursuant to section 17-314 or 17-340.
D. Notwithstanding section 13-905 or 13-906, if a judgment of guilt is set aside pursuant to this section, the person's right to possess a gun or firearm is restored. This subsection does not apply to a person who was convicted of a serious offense as defined in section 13-706.
E. This section does not apply to a person who was convicted of a criminal offense:
1. Involving a dangerous offense.
2. For which the person is required or ordered by the court to register pursuant to section 13-3821.
3. For which there has been a finding of sexual motivation pursuant to section 13-118.
4. In which the victim is a minor under fifteen years of age.
5. In violation of section 28-3473, any local ordinance relating to stopping, standing or operation of a vehicle or title 28, chapter 3, except a violation of section 28-693 or any local ordinance relating to the same subject matter as section 28-693.

Commentary on Section 13-907

This is the section that covers the goal for anyone with a criminal record in Arizona – getting the conviction set aside. According to this section, as soon as someone has completed their probation, imprisonment, or otherwise completed their sentence, the judge discharging the person needs to inform them of their right to have their conviction set aside. The person needs only to apply.
If a person’s application is granted, the judgment of guilt is set aside, the accusations or information is dismissed, and an order is issued saying that the person can be released of all penalties and disabilities that the conviction creates. The exception is for those convictions involving the statutes listed.
Once a person’s conviction is set aside, they will have their rights related to firearms restored immediately, unless they were convicted of a felony considered serious or violent pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-706.
A person who was convicted of a crime that meets one of the five disqualifying factors will not be able to have their conviction set aside. They should instead apply for a restoration of all or at least some of their civil rights.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-908

Restoration of civil rights in the discretion of the superior court judge
Except as provided in section 13-912, the restoration of civil rights and the dismissal of the accusation or information under the provisions of this chapter shall be in the discretion of the superior court judge by whom the person was sentenced or his successor in office.

Commentary on Section 13-908

Put your best face on: this section puts the right to grant or deny an application to restore civil rights in the sole discretion of the judge that sentenced you, or whoever followed that judge.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-909

Restoration of civil rights; persons completing probation for federal offense
A. A person who has been convicted of two or more felonies and whose period of probation has been completed may have any civil rights which were lost or suspended by the felony conviction in a United States district court restored by the presiding judge of the superior court in the county in which the person now resides, on filing of an affidavit of discharge from the judge who discharged him at the end of the term of probation.
B. On proper application, a person who has been discharged from probation either before or after adoption of this chapter may have any civil rights which were lost or suspended by the felony conviction restored by an application filed with the clerk of the superior court in the county in which the person now resides. The clerk of the superior court shall process the application on request of the person involved or the person's attorney.
C. If the person was convicted of an offense which would be a dangerous offense under section 13-704, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. If the person was convicted of an offense which would be a serious offense as defined in section 13-706 the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for ten years from the date of the person's discharge from probation. If the person was convicted of any other felony offense, the person may not file for the restoration of his right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for two years from the date of his discharge from probation.

Commentary on Section 13-909

Arizona is one of a rare few that allows people who have been convicted of federal felonies. If a person has been convicted of two or more felonies and received probation, they may qualify. The bar is a bit different – either the judge in the Arizona Superior Court where the person now lives or the judge that discharged the person will be able to restore the civil rights that were taken upon the conviction.
The only exception is that if the federal offense was equivalent to Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-704, they cannot have their right to possess or carry firearms restored. If the offense was equivalent to Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-706, they have to wait ten years. Finally, if it was any other felony, the person will have to wait two years.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-910

Applications by persons discharged from federal prison
A. On proper application, a person who has been convicted of two or more felonies and who has received an absolute discharge from imprisonment in a federal prison may have any civil rights which were lost or suspended by the conviction restored by the presiding judge of the superior court in the county in which the person now resides.
B. A person who is subject to subsection A of this section may file, no sooner than two years from the date of his absolute discharge, an application for restoration of civil rights that shall be accompanied by a certificate of absolute discharge from the director of the federal bureau of prisons, unless it is shown to be impossible to obtain such certificate. Such application shall be filed with the clerk of the superior court in the county in which the person now resides, and such clerk shall be responsible for processing applications for restoration of civil rights upon request of the person involved or the person's attorney.
C. If the person was convicted of an offense which would be a dangerous offense under section 13-704, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm. If the person was convicted of an offense which would be a serious offense as defined in section 13-706, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for ten years from the date of the person's absolute discharge from imprisonment. If the person was convicted of any other felony offense, the person may not file for the restoration of the right to possess or carry a gun or firearm for two years from the date of the person's absolute discharge from imprisonment.

Commentary on Section 13-910

Just like with a federal conviction involving probation, Arizona is one of the rare few that extends the right to restore civil rights to those given sentences involving federal prison time. The application must request this restoration of rights from the Arizona Superior Court judge in the county where the person now lives.
The person must wait at least two years before they request a restoration of rights. A certified absolute discharge from the federal bureau of prisons must be attached to the application or proof must be provided that it was impossible to obtain.
If the person was convicted of an offense that would be considered dangerous under 704, they can never restore their right to possess or carry a firearm. If they were convicted of an offense that would be considered serious under 706, then they must wait ten years before filing a request to have their right to possess or carry a firearm restored. As mentioned above, any other felony will require at least two years before filing.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-911

Restoration of civil rights in the discretion of the presiding judge of the superior court
The restoration of civil rights under provisions of sections 13-909 or 13-910 is within the discretion of the presiding judge of the superior court in the county in which the person resides.

Commentary on Section 13-911

Just like state court charges, the power to restore your civil rights resides in the hands of the presiding judge of the Arizona Superior Court where you live.

Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-912

Restoration of civil rights for first offenders; exception
A. Any person who has not previously been convicted of any other felony shall automatically be restored any civil rights that were lost or suspended by the conviction if the person both:
1. Completes a term of probation or receives an absolute discharge from imprisonment.
2. Pays any fine or restitution imposed.
B. This section does not apply to a person's right to possess weapons as defined in section 13-3101 unless the person applies to a court pursuant to section 13-905 or 13-906.

Commentary on Section 13-912

In recognition of yet another aspect of Arizona law that others don’t share, Arizona allows for an automatic restoration of any civil rights that are lost or suspended for first offenders so long as they complete their sentence. The right to carry or possess firearms is not included in this, however, and that application must be made separately.

Get Started

Once you are ready, these are the agencies you need to contact: You will also have to contact your county clerk of court. Step-by-step instructions including who to contact, what to send, and where to send it, are available at the end of our qualification form.

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