A woman we're calling Barbara to protect her identify, was charged with shoplifting in her 20's. She didn't have to serve time in jail, but the charge was on her record and she couldn't get a job. When the 33-year old found out it could be removed, she jumped at the chance.
"I was very relieved about it. I was so happy. Now I was happy to the point that they could not judge me for something I've done some years back and now they look at I'm trying to get out here and do something," said Barbara.
Attorney Errick Simmons handled Barbara's case. He chairs the Magnolia Bar Association's expungement clinics.
"When a person is convicted or arrested of a misdemeanor or a felony. Sometimes they are denied jobs, public housing, welfare due to a felony conviction. They're having a hard time starting over since they've been released from jail or prison, including their voting rights are effected," said Simmons.
Simmons says, certain offenses like shoplifting, possession of a controlled substance under an ounce, or a bad check qualify for expungement--which erases both the arrest and the conviction. Crimes such as robberies, burglaries, violent acts and sex offenses are not eligible. The Mississippi Legislature determines which crimes can be expunged. Simmons says sometimes the person has to appear in court.
"They may request a hearing. You go in front a neutral and detached magistrate or judge and they will make a determination whether it fits within the laws of the State of Mississippi," said Simmons.
Mississippi law requires that people charged with a misdemeanor wait two years after they've completed their sentence to apply.