Arizona: Conviction Set-Asides, Civil Rights Restoration, and
Regaining the Right to Bear Arms
If you made a mistake that resulted in a criminal
conviction, it does not have to haunt you forever.
While a criminal conviction of any kind comes with some
consequences, felony criminal convictions often carry very serious consequences.
In addition to prison and fines, the stigma of criminal convictions often haunts
offenders for the rest of their lives in the form of:
• loss of voting rights
• restrictions against holding certain public offices
• travel restrictions
• employment restrictions
• jury service restrictions
• public benefit restrictions
• parental benefit restrictions
• a lifetime loss of the right to possess firearms
• professional/social stigma
In Arizona, complete firearm restrictions are imposed
against all convicted felons. Additionally, people convicted of misdemeanor
domestic violence offenses are barred from possessing firearms, as are people
who have received certain mental health judgments and people using marijuana –
even if they have a valid state medical marijuana card or live in a state where
recreational marijuana is permissible under state law.
The Firearm Rights Restrictions come out of the Gun
Control Act of 1968 and its subsequent amendments. That federal law often relies
on interpretations of state law, state convictions, and state determinations for
enforcement, which results in its uneven and unfair application across the
country. For example, if a person loses their right to bear arms in California,
in most cases very little can be done to restore it. In Arizona, however, it is
at least possible, in most circumstances, to request that a judge set aside a
state conviction and restore the offender’s right to bear arms. At the same
time, offenders can often regain their right to vote and begin applying for jobs
that, due to the conviction, were previously unavailable to them.
In Arizona, the law permits different classes of
offenders to petition the courts at different times for set-asides and for
rights restoration while barring certain offenders from ever having their rights
The success of such petitions often hinges on the nature
and number of the original offense(s), the amount of time that has passed since
the offense(s), and the personal situations of the offenders since their
convictions. Offenders are not guaranteed forgiveness under the law, but,
because of the Arizona legislature’s creation of clear pathways to rights
restoration, many Arizona offenders who have moved beyond their past
transgressions are now enjoying their full civil rights as American citizens.
If you want to go hunting or shooting with your friends
and family, or you want the right to have your opinions hold weight at the
ballot box, and you have managed to avoid recent legal troubles, you may be a
good candidate for rights restoration.
In Arizona, restoration of your civil rights is a
relatively simple petition process, and court appearances are unlikely.
Consequently, it is more affordable than most legal services, and the prospects
of success are often greater than you may think.
Set-Aside vs. Expungement
In Arizona, there is no such thing as true expungement
(or erasing) of a conviction. In rare cases, it is possible to expunge a police
report that did not result in a conviction, but a conviction that has been
set-aside will always show up on a background check. However, following a
set-aside, that same check may show “Judgment of Guilt Set Aside” instead of
That formal expression of the State’s forgiveness can
sometimes convince prospective employers not to hold such incidents against job
applicants and to permit people to pass a background check that they would
otherwise fail. It can also be helpful to have even misdemeanor crimes set
aside, even where no rights are in need of restoration.