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Court May Grant Conviction Vacation, but Deny Civil Rights Restoration

State v. Key
Court of Appeals of Arizona
Feb 24, 1981

Holding: The Court of Appeals of Arizona held that the judge’s order to discharge defendant from probation, but not to vacate judgment of guilt or dismiss the charges, did not improperly overrule the first’s judge’s order. The Court also held that the trial court did not err when it treated the restoration of civil right separate from vacation of conviction and dismissal of charges.

Why This Case is Important: A.R.S. §13-904, 905, 906, and 909 through 912 detail how a person’s civil rights may be restored. §13-912 states that a person will automatically get their civil rights restored upon completion of their probation as long as they were a first time offender. A.R.S. §13-907 and 908 detail how a person may get their conviction vacated and dismissed. §13-908 specifically gives the trial court discretion in granting such an order. Because these statutes either specifically deal with the restoration of civil rights or the dismissal and vacation of a conviction, it is the legislatures intent that they be treated separate from one another. Therefore, a court may grant one while denying the other. An order restoring civil rights does not need to follow an order to vacate a conviction or vice versa.

Facts of This Case: Defendant was convicted of receiving stolen goods. The trial court placed defendant on five years of probation and ordered him to pay the victim restitution during that period. Defendant later requested to modify the conditions of the probation. Judge Cordova, who presided over defendant’s trial, agreed to terminate the probation on a specific date if the restitution fee was fully paid off. Afterwards, Judge Goodfarb ordered that defendant was entitled to have his civil rights restored, but dismissal of the charges would be discretionary with the court and would be considered separate from the restoration of civil rights.

Defendant appealed Judge Goodfarb’s order, arguing that the judge exceeded his jurisdiction by changing Judge Cordova’s initial order and that the dismissal of charges, vacation of judgment and entry of plea of not guilty cannot be separate from restoration of civil rights restoration.

The Court of Appeals of Arizona disagreed with the defendant’s argument that Judge Goodfarb exceeded his jurisdiction. The initial order given by Judge Cordova modified the term of probation by terminating it on a specific date if restitution was fully paid. Judge Goodfarb’s order discharged defendant from probation, thereby following Judge Cordova’s order. Judge Goodfarb’s order not to vacate defendant’s judgment or dismiss the charges did not overrule Judge Cordova’s initial order, but rather it was Judge Goodfarb’s own discretionary decision.

The Court also disagrees with defendant that the trial court was in error by treating the restoration of civil rights separate from dismissal of charges, entry of plea of not guilty and vacation of conviction. A.R.S. §13-904, 905, 906, and 909 through 912 detail the specific statutory provision to restore a person’s civil rights. §13-912 makes the restoration of civil rights automatic for first time offenders. Defendant was a first time offender in this case and therefore he was entitled to have his civil rights restored.

However, §13-907 is a separate statute, which details the provisions for setting aside a judgment of conviction and dismissal of charges. It allows a person to apply for such order after the conditions of their probation has been fulfilled. §13-908 provides that the dismissal of the judgment of conviction and vacation of conviction is discretionary with the trial court. Therefore, the statutes that govern theses orders are separate from one another, and Judge Goodfarb did not err when giving his orders to treat them separate. Thus there was no error by the trial court and Judge Goodfarb.

Key Language: A trial court is within its discretionary power when it restores a person’s civil rights but then refuses to vacate their judgment and dismiss the charges. The former is treated separately from the later.

Expert Advise: “In Arizona, the restoration of civil rights is separate from an order to vacating judgment and dismissing charges. A court may grant one without granting the other as detailed in the statutes.” Attorney Mathew Higbee

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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