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Mississippi Court Records

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Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions in Mississippi

In the State of Mississippi, crimes occur when the laws of the land are violated. Such violations are either against another person (violent crime) or against property (non-violent crime) (§ 97-3-1- §97-3-117). The Justice system of Mississippi categorises all forms of crime into two broad groups: felonies and misdemeanors, all other offenses are labelled violations. How a crime is categorised in the State Penal Code determines the following for the offender: length of incarceration, where it will be spent (state prison or county jail), how heavy or little the fees and fines, which court and judge will try the case. And since most felonies are violent crimes, they attract the most severe of penalties. Mississippi's criminal courts handle cases related to criminal offenses, and individuals interested in accessing Mississippi criminal court records can submit requests to the relevant court where the proceedings occurred.

What is a Felony in Mississippi?

Felonies are the most serious, and most severely punished criminal offenses in the state of Mississippi. In whatever manner felonies are perpetuated, they constitute a threat to the safety of the individual and the general public. As such, Mississippi legislation has very harsh penal laws for felonies, ranging from incarceration in a State prison (up to life imprisonment), to the death sentence. 

Unlike some other states, Mississippi legislation no longer groups felonies into classes of severity, instead, each felony act has a specific punishment allotted to it by law. Where the legislation does not specify a penalty for a crime, the prosecuting judge has the jurisdiction to impose one. Therefore, though robbery and burglary are felonies in Mississippi, they do not attract the same punishment. While robbery is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison up to 15 years, for burglary,  imprisonment is up to 25 years in the state prison.

There are some offenses that are punishable by fine or jail term in a county jail, however, the court may impose imprisonment in a state prison as the maximum punishment for the same crime. Such offenses are categorised as felonies, whether the offender is incarcerated in a county jail, or in the state prison.

Death penalty and imprisonment in the state prison are not the only punishments for felonies in Mississippi. Upon conviction, some felonies attract heavy fines (up to $50,000) alongside other forms of penalty. For example, possession of 10 dosages or more of oxycodone can attract up to three years in the state prison, with or without a fine of $50,000. Whereas, aggravated stalking attracts up to five years in the state prison and/or a fine of up to $3,000.  

Since felonies are punished individually and not as a group in the state, some factors must be considered as guidelines, to help the court impose the appropriate punishment on each crime. These are:

  • The location of the crime: Where a felony occurs determines how it is rated, and this informs the severity of the punishment imposed on it by the court. For instance, a crime attracts a stiffer penalty when it is committed in or around a public place, compared to other locations e.g a drug offense within or around a school or church.
  • Involvement of firearm: The state does not treat lightly any crime that involves the use or display of firearms. Such crimes attract harsher punishments, compared to others.
  • Past criminal records of the offender: Previous criminal offenses committed by the defendant can influence the severity of the punishment received for a new crime. A habitual or repeat offender in Mississippi is usually charged with a more severe punishment for a new crime, than a first offender would have received for the same crime. Example is a DUI (driving under the influence) which is charged as felony for a third offender.
  • Victims involved: The nature of the victims involved in a crime can also influence how severely an offender is punished for a crime. If a DUI offense involves a child or a physically challenged person, the court has the authority to impose a much more severe punishment on the offender. 

Apart from the harsh punishments meted out to a felon, the records of arrest, prosecution, and conviction of some felony acts are retained permanently on the criminal records of offenders in Mississippi. This is especially true for Mississippi sex offenses and driving offenses resulting in the death or injury of a person. This gives the offender no option of expungement or sealing such records, even after completion of sentence. This situation has deleterious effects (collateral consequences) on the lives of offenders, as well as their future aspirations.

What are some examples of felonies in Mississippi?

Some typical examples of felonies in the state Mississippi are:

  • Murder
  • Forgery
  • Rape
  • Drug trafficking
  • Third (DUI) conviction within a period of 5 years
  • Aggravated assault
  • Larceny
  • Arson
  • Manslaughter
  • Cyberstalking
  • Sexual battery
  • Aggravated domestic violence
  • Third conviction for shoplifting of not less than $500 worth of goods
  • Perjury
  • Act of terrorism

Can I get a felony removed from a court record in Mississippi?

Yes, some felonies can be removed or expunged from a person's record in Mississippi. Expungement is the process of removing or erasing records of arrest or convictions from a person's public record. Only one felony record is eligible for expungement from a person's criminal record, and it is not every crime that can be expunged in Mississippi. 

When an expungement is approved, the court orders all the arrest and conviction documentation of the crime to be withdrawn, destroyed and/or permanently sealed by the custodian agencies. This means that information on the crime will not be found when background checks are conducted on the offender. 

Through expungement, an offender's legal status is restored back to that of a person with no criminal past, meaning he or she can honestly/legally deny ever commiting the expunged crime. However, not all felonies are eligible for expungement, especially violent crimes. Examples of felonies not eligible for expungement are: 

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Intimidating a witness
  • Forgery
  • Embezzlement
  • Trafficking (first degree) controlled substance
  • Rape
  • Refusal to register as a sex offender
  • Abuse and neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable person 
  • DUI (third, fourth and subsequent convictions)
  • A felon carrying firearm

Examples of felonies eligible for expungement include:

  • Felony shoplifting (third conviction, involving goods worth $500 and above, within a period of 5 years)
  • Larceny
  • Sale of controlled substance
  • Possession of marijuana with the intention to distribute
  • Bad check offenses. 

This is a very short list indeed. Knowing the deleterious effects a criminal record has on a person's life, the state of Mississippi, through its new law, Justice Reform Act of 2019 (from July 1), expanded the number of crimes that can be expunged. The law now gives all felons the right to one expungement, precisely, every first conviction of all non-violent felonies is eligible for expungement. 

The Justice Reform act is one of the few measures taken by the state to give erring citizens a second chance. Records show that millions of Mississippians have a criminal record. Life can be very difficult for such people because even after serving the punishment imposed by law, the society continues to punish them for their past through what is known as collateral consequences of criminal convictions. 

Civil collateral consequences are the additional civil actions imposed by the state (authorised by the Statutes) on persons with criminal convictions. In Mississippi, some of these actions are: 

  • Loss of voting rights (disenfranchisement) which can only be restored by the Governor through executive power to pardon (executive clemency), or getting two third  votes of legislators to restore voting rights (Miss. Const. art. 5, § 12)
  • Inability to get appointed to public offices, and positions of trust, honour, or profit, except the person is given full pardon by the Governor.
  • Ineligibility to carry out jury duties.
  • Discrimination by employers, leading to inability to become gainfully employed ( even after serving time), despite being qualified.
  • Ineligibility to gain admission into institutions of learning.
  • Loss of rights to student grants.
  • Ineligibility for welfare benefits
  • Deportation for immigrants (including those already granted permanent residence)
  • Loss of access to public funds
  • Loss of rights to own firearms unless  a court awards the person a “certificate of rehabilitation” (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-5(1))
  • Loss of access to/eviction from public housing, and difficulty in renting apartments from private agents.
  • Withdrawal of occupational/ professional license.
  • Loss of driving rights through license withdrawal, and or inability to renew license.
  • Inability to ever practise as a medical doctor or dentist if convicted under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-35.
  • Social discrimination and non - acceptance by members of the community.

Added to these is the emotional and psychological frustration experienced resulting from an ex-felon's inability to break free from a criminal past.

Despite the fact that some felonies qualify for expungement, the following conditions must be met by the applicant to get approval:

  • The applicant must not have expunged a criminal offense before. The state of Mississippi allows the removal of only one felony conviction from a person's criminal record.
  • The case must wait for five years after the applicant has served the punishment for the crime.
  • The case was dismissed by the court.
  • The defendant was exonerated from the case by the court.
  • The prosecutor dropped all charges against the defendant (Section 99-19-71 of the Mississippi Code)

For juvenile offenders, the state of Mississippi keeps the criminal records of juvenile offenders confidential/sealed and controls access to it, until it is expunged. As provided for by the Mississippi Code, juvenile criminal records can be expunged at the discretion of the court at the request of the offender. At age 21, a former juvenile offender is eligible to file for the expungement of his or her criminal records. 

It is advisable for applicants to file for expungement of criminal records through their defense attorney in the court where the trial was held. The District Attorney must be given 10 days’ notice before the hearing. One thing that will influence the decision of the court to grant an expungement request or not is whether the applicant has shown signs of rehabilitation.

However, after a record is expunged, a copy of it is still kept at the Mississippi  Criminal Information Centre. Although this record can no longer be accessed by the public, law enforcement agents are authorised to access it in order to determine if an expungement applicant is a first-time offender or not.   

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Mississippi?

He and sealing are not the same in Mississippi. Whereas an expunged record is destroyed (permanently removed  from public records), a sealed record is not removed but hidden from the public by a court order. Only another court order can unseal it. This means that the record will not come up when a background check is conducted on the person. Also, while filling forms that enquire about criminal records, someone with expunged  or sealed record can legally answer "No".

However, law enforcement agencies can still have access to these criminal records through the Mississippi Criminal Information Center (CIC). The state law prescribes that the centre retains the records of criminal activities of everyone to confirm if an arrested person is a first offender or not. Whether the court actually convicts, dismisses the case, exonerates the defendant, or the prosecutor drops the case against the defendant, the record gets filed with the CIC.

What are misdemeanors in Mississippi?

The state of Mississippi considers any offense which does not attract the death penalty, imprisonment in the state prison, or heavy fines, as misdemeanors. Therefore, just like in other states, misdemeanors are offenses that are not as serious as felonies. 

The punishment for misdemeanor in the state of Mississippi is a jail term of not more than one year in a county jail, and fines not exceeding $1,000. Mississippi does not categorise crimes into classes based on their severity, but treats each crime on its own. Each crime attracts its own punishment which can be one of the punishments mentioned above or a combination of the two. 

The punishment for a particular crime can also depend on its frequency (Section 63-11-5). For example, a misdemeanor first offender can be penalised with less jail term in a county jail than a second or third offender, with or without a fine.

 The penalty for a DUI first offender is a jail term of not more than 48 hours in a county jail and/or a fine of between $250 and $1,000. But second and third reoccurrences by the same offender within 5 years, attracts a jail term of not more than 5 days in a county jail and/or a fine of not less than $600, but not more than $1,500. At the first and second occurrences, they are still charged as misdemeanors; but on the third occurrence within five years, it becomes a felony offense.

Furthermore, any crime for which a jail term in a county jail is imposed, but which a court jury imposes imprisonment in a state prison as maximum punishment is not a misdemeanor but a felony,  regardless of the fact that the offender is given a punishment meant for misdemeanors.

What are some examples of misdemeanors in Mississippi?

Some examples of misdemeanors in Mississippi are:

  • DUI (1st and 2nd offender)
  • Possession of marijuana of not more than 30 gram
  • Shoplifting of goods that are worth not more than $500 (1st and 2nd time)
  • Public intoxication
  • Underage drinking
  • Resisting arrest
  • Hazing
  • Petit larceny
  • Disorderly conducts
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Disturbing the peace of the community

Can I get a misdemeanor removed from a record in Mississippi?

Misdemeanors can be removed from a person's criminal records in Mississippi. Section 99-19-71 of the Mississippi Code provides for the expungement of the records of a first-time misdemeanor offender. Sections 9-11-15 and 21-23-7 further state that misdemeanor offenders can plead for the expungement of subsequent misdemeanor convictions. The court can decide to grant this request if:

  • the offender shows signs of rehabilitation after having served the punishment for the crime;
  • the offender has been of good conduct for a period of two years after the last conviction; and
  • it is in line with the best interest of the society.

There are some conditions that determine whether the court will grant the appeal to expunge such misdemeanors from a court record. They include: satisfying the waiting period of five years after serving the punishment; being a first-time offender, and not having a pending misdemeanor conviction of the same nature.

Can a DUI be expunged in Mississippi?

 Yes, a  DUI (driving under influence) can be expunged from a Mississippi court record. However,  the possibility of expunging a DUI conviction depends on many conditions, as provided for by the Justice system of Mississippi. These conditions in Section 63-11-30 of the Mississippi Code. It states that a person with a DUI conviction can appeal for expungement of the criminal record if:

  • The defendant is not holding a commercial driver’s license;
  • The defendant has served the punishment imposed on the offense;
  • The defendant does not have any other pending DUI offense;
  • The defendant has not expunged any criminal record before;
  • The defendant submits to a test of his or her blood and breath;
  • The defendant has a blood alcohol concentration of not more than 0.16%; and
  • The defendant provides a proper reason for the removal of the crime from the record.

Therefore, if an applicant or a DUI case does not meet these requirements, it will not qualify for expungement. Concerning timing for expungement application, an applicant must wait for five years to elapse after completion of sentence, before applying. While someone with a pending DUI conviction must forget the possibility of expunging the current one.

 What is an infraction in Mississippi?

Infractions in the state of Mississippi are minor violations of laws which only attract fines. In short, infractions are considered minor misdemeanors and are mostly traffic violations in the state of Mississippi. Because these violations are not serious crimes, most of them do not enter an offender’s criminal record. For example, Section 63-2-7(2) of the Mississippi Code states that a conviction of failure to use a seat belt while driving will not go into the driving record of the offender. As such, it does not become a criminal record. 

In the City of Olive Branch, traffic violations are either moving offenses (e.g speeding, disobeying traffic lights) or non moving offenses (e.g expired driver's license, lack of car insurance). Fines for violations range from $153 to $649.25 in Mississippi and offenders must pay within 15 days, or face stiffer penalties like suspension of license. Offenders can pay traffic tickets from the comfort of their homes online, in person or by mail at the county where the violation occurred. 

Though the state does not use the point system to suspend traffic offender's driver’s license, every subsequent conviction of infraction attracts a more stringent punishment, such as the loss of driver’s license to the government through suspension.

Infractions attract tickets which bear the fine that the offender must pay. However, there are some violations that do not stop at paying the fine alone, offenders are expected to also appear in a county court. When an offender commits such violations, the ticket issued acts as a summon to court. Failure to appear in court can cause the offender to be charged with contempt of court, which is a serious offense punishable by jail time.

What are some examples of infractions in Mississippi?

Infractions in the state of Mississippi include:

  • Speeding
  • Littering
  • Following another vehicle too closely
  • Obstructing traffic
  • Driving with an expired driver’s license or without a license
  • Disobeying traffic light
  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Reckless driving
  • Not using a seat belt for a child
  • Making unlawful turns
  • Improper registration of a vehicle
  • Driving a car without insurance

Can infractions be expunged from a Mississippi Criminal Court Record?

Infractions are mainly traffic violations,   and these are not eligible for expunction in the state of Mississippi.  Section 99-19-71(1) clearly states that any offender charged with a record of  traffic violation cannot apply for expungement. Therefore, a traffic violation remains in the record of an offender forever. Prospective employers and the general public can have access to this record and it can prevent the person from getting employed. 

However, according to the provision of Section 99-15-123(3) of the Mississippi Code, if the state drops all the traffic charges against the offender, the court can expunge the violation record.  

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