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J.A. v. Missouri Department of Corrections

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division

December 17, 2019

J.A., Appellant,
v.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL AND PETTIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR, Respondents.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Pettis County, Missouri The Honorable Robert L. Koffman, Judge.

          Before Cynthia L. Martin, Presiding Judge, Thomas H. Newton, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge.

          Gary D. Witt, Judge.

         J.A. ("Appellant")[1] appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of Pettis County dismissing his petition for expungement. J.A. raises two points of error contending that the circuit court erred in its application of section 610.140.5.[2] The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded with instructions.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On July 25, 2018, J.A. filed a Petition for Expungement in the circuit court ("Petition"). J.A. sought expungement of his 1970 conviction for felony possession of a stimulant drug in violation of section 195.240, [3] specifically amphetamine. The Petition named as defendants multiple Pettis County entities, the Missouri State Highway Patrol ("Highway Patrol"), and the Sedalia Police Department. The Highway Patrol was the only entity that filed an Answer; it also filed a Motion to Dismiss.

         The circuit court held a hearing on February 1, 2019. J.A. admitted that he was convicted of felony possession of a stimulant drug on May 6, 1970. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, he served 11 months, and was completely released on May 7, 1973. In 1976, he was convicted of the sale of amphetamines in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. With the exception of one traffic ticket, J.A. had not been found guilty of any misdemeanor or felony offense in the past 40 years.

         In arguing both against expungement and in support of its Motion to Dismiss, the Highway Patrol contended that J.A. was ineligible for expungement of his 1970 conviction because he was found guilty of an additional felony in less than seven years after the completed authorized disposition of the conviction.

         The circuit court entered its Amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on February 26, 2019 ("Judgment").[4] The court found that the calculation of the seven-year period was from the date of completed disposition and found J.A. ineligible for expungement due to his 1976 conviction. As such, the Judgment dismissed J.A.'s Petition.

         This appeal followed.

         Standard of Review

         As a court-tried case, we will affirm the judgment of the circuit court unless there is no evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares the law. Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976); S.Y. v. Askren, 581 S.W.3d 721, 722 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019). The circuit court's statutory interpretations are a question of law to be reviewed de novo. S.Y., 581 S.W.3d at 722.

         Discussion

         The facts of this case are not in dispute. J.A. was convicted of a felony in 1970 and was not completely released from his disposition until May 7, 1973. Within three years of that final disposition, he was found guilty of an additional felony offense in federal court. The circuit court determined the proper interpretation of subsections 610.140.5(1) and (2) was that, to be entitled to expungement of a felony, a petitioner must show that he or she did not commit another felony or misdemeanor for at least seven years from the date of completion of final disposition of the felony sought to be expunged. In his first point on appeal, J.A. argues that the circuit court erred in its interpretation. J.A. argues that ...


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