Does a criminal record follow you forever? Well, in some States it may, but in New Hampshire, we have an annulment law. Lothstein Guerriero, PLLC has helped many current and former clients obtain annulments of past criminal and motor vehicle offenses.
At the present time, unless your original case that you want to annul was handled by our firm, our firm handles annulments only for cases that were filed in the following Courts: Merrimack County Superior Court, and the Concord District Court. We cannot help you with your annulment, or provide information, regarding the annulment of a case that was filed in any other Court.
Annulment is the complete destruction of the public record of a criminal conviction. The court file is destroyed. If a person obtains a copy of your State Police criminal record, the arrest and conviction will no longer appear on the record. It’s not that the record shows “conviction annulled.” The record shows nothing – no entry at all.
However, the local police department and prosecuting agency, and the State Police, may retain information about the case which can be used in a future bail or sentencing hearing. The federal government, FBI and other agencies, will retain the information and post it on a FBI “triple I” (Interstate Identification Index) criminal record check. Law enforcement employers and private and public employers that deal with information or technologies that present national security risks, can access the III record.
Nevertheless, an annulment is very valuable to our clients because most employers generally cannot obtain an FBI III record check. Most employers rely on the “local” (State Police) record check, which they can obtain by having an employee or job applicant sign a release. Thus, the annulled arrest and/or conviction will be invisible to most employers running a background check.
To get an annulment in New Hampshire, you have to file paperwork, with a filing fee, and potentially another fee for a background check by the Department of Correction. The wait can be as little as a couple of weeks for some types of annulments, but others take much longer.
The paperwork is not complicated, but NH’s annulment law is full of pitfalls. The annulment statutes are scattered across several different chapters of the motor vehicle and criminal codes. Different offenses have different waiting periods before you can get an annulment – for example, a year for some “violation” level offenses, 3 years for most misdemeanors, 6 years for certain felonies. However, the waiting period is 7 years for any motor vehicle offense, even a minor offense such as a speeding ticket, that can be a “predicate” for habitual offender certification. And, some offenses are never eligible for annulment.
There are procedural traps for the unwary. If the applicant files the petition before the required waiting period has expired, it will be denied and the applicant will have to wait three years before she can file again. NH RSA 651:5. We recently had to turn away a would-be client who filed an annulment petition on her own for her son, several months early — it was denied, and now her son has to wait three more years. The laws do not comport with "common sense" - for example, the waiting period to annul a violation speeding ticket is several years longer than the waiting period to annul a conviction for a misdemeanor assault, theft or drug possession.
If you or a loved one has a NH criminal conviction and you would like to hire a lawyer to pursue an annulment, give us a call or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!
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