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Haugen Moeckel & Bossart

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3 Minutes Read

A Blast From The Past: Why is your old North Dakota conviction still showing up? 

I received a telephone call yesterday from a young man seeking to seal an old drug conviction from the State of North Dakota that has been haunting him for a decade.  He explained to me the number of job opportunities and rental problems he has had for the past ten years due to an old conviction for selling marijuana in a school zone, which resulted in a felony conviction that has had long-lasting ramifications.  He asked what could be done to try to clean up this old conviction, as he has turned his life around and moved onto a new career (a legal one!) that he wants to define him.


What kind of conviction do you have?


North Dakota typically has felony and misdemeanor convictions, but the actual conviction may not be what it appears.  For instance, deferred imposition of a sentence could result in a sentence that leads to dismissal and sealing of the file entirely! This is the next best thing to a dismissal of the charge or a not guilty verdict. A felony conviction could also be a misdemeanor by disposition under the laws of North Dakota (which means the conviction becomes a misdemeanor after successfully completing probation). The critical question is this: What type of conviction do I have? If you are unsure, it is time to seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney in North Dakota to help you answer this question. A simple phone call can do the trick!


What can you do if your conviction appears to be wrong/mistaken?


There are times when the court makes a mistake in designating the type of conviction a person has, and it can be corrected with a little determination. It is a requirement by North Dakota state law that if a deferred imposition of a sentence has been ordered (and completed), the court administration must, within 61 days of the probationary period, dismiss the file and seal the record. I have seen times when court administration misses this requirement and doesn’t seal the file. Reaching out to court administration can be an effective way to accomplish this if the defendant has successfully completed their requirements. The young man who sought me out to discuss his case the other day had already completed his deferred imposition of sentence, and the court didn’t seal his file. He spent ten years with a felony conviction on his record that should have been sealed! 

We simply reached out to the court…and the problem was corrected within an hour, and he got his file sealed!


Can you try to seal the conviction?


A person may file a petition to seal a criminal record if he has pled guilty to or was found guilty of a misdemeanor offense and has not been charged with a new crime for at least three years from the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation. If the offense was a felony, the person might file a petition to seal a criminal record, if the person pled guilty to or was found guilty of a felony offense and the individual has not been charged with a new crime for at least five years from the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation. This type of petition is very precise, and it is always wise to have the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you draft it properly!

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