In New Mexico, a person with a criminal record can ask the court to expunge the record. The state enacted new expungement laws in 2020, which greatly expanded eligibility for expungement.
Expungement represents a process that hides or seals criminal records (maintained by the government) from public view. Generally, the court will grant a person's petition to expunge their criminal records after charges have been dismissed or the person completes the terms of the sentence and remains crime-free for a period of time. Because a criminal record can hamper a person's ability to get a job, apartment, or professional license, expunging those records can provide a pathway to a better life.
Expungement, however, does not wipe the slate completely clean. For one, any news stories and information on the internet will not likely go away. Also, criminal justice agencies—such as the courts and law enforcement—can still see these records for purposes of charging and sentencing in the event of future crimes.
In New Mexico, eligibility for expungement depends on several factors, including the result of the case (convicted or not convicted), the offense level (felony or misdemeanor), the crime, completion of the sentence, and completion of a waiting period with no additional convictions. The person seeking an expungement (who's called the petitioner) also can't have any pending criminal charges when applying.
New Mexico also set up an automatic expungement process that applies only to old marijuana convictions or arrest records for acts that are no longer offenses.
If you were arrested or detained but not convicted, you can ask the court to expunge all related records after one year has passed since your case ended. This option applies to charges or arrests for felony, misdemeanor, and ordinance violations under the criminal and traffic codes, as well as deferred sentences under the traffic code.
Your case must have ended in one of the following ways:
If your record qualifies, a judge must order the expungement of arrest and other public records relating to the charges.
(N.M. Stat. § 29-3A-4 (2022).)
New Mexico permits the expungement of many criminal convictions after successfully finishing one's sentence, paying off any fines, fees, or restitution orders, and completing a wait period. The judge also needs to decide that justice will be served by allowing the expungement. Certain offenses are ineligible for expungement.
A person can apply to have felony convictions expunged after a set amount of time has passed following completion of the sentence, so long as the person remained crime free. The wait period depends on the offense level, as follows:
A similar process applies for expunging misdemeanor convictions. The wait periods following the completion of a sentence are:
New Mexico's expungement laws are fairly broad. But lawmakers have decided that convictions for certain crimes cannot be expunged, no matter how much time has passed. These crimes include:
(N.M. Stat. § 29-3A-5 (2022).)
New Mexico set up an automatic expungement process that applies to old marijuana convictions or arrest records related to:
These records should be automatically expunged two years after the date of conviction or the date of arrest if there wasn't a conviction. For juvenile offenses, the record will be expunged after two years or after the person turns 18, whichever comes first.
(N.M. Stat. § 29-3A-7 (2022).)
A person seeking expungement will need to file a petition with the district court in the county where their record originated. The New Mexico court website has forms and instructions to assist people with the expungement process. You can find this information under "Resource Guides" by clicking on "Expungement."
Filing fees may also apply. If you can't afford the fees, you can apply to file for free by filing a form and affidavit of indigency. These forms are also available on the court website under "District Court Forms" and "Civil."
In many cases, you can fill out the paperwork and file the court petition on your own. If it feels overwhelming, you might want to consider hiring an attorney, checking out legal aid clinics, or seeing if any agencies or law schools are offering expungement clinics.