How to Expunge my Public Records in Vermont

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In Vermont, residents seek record deletion for various reasons. Deleting a public record typically means removing it from places or repositories where it can be easily accessed by the public. In time past, interested persons can only obtain public records in Vermont at state-run depositories. However, the times have changed. Several independent vendors now provide public records services at a fee. It implies that anyone can purchase records from these third-party companies that records owners would want to keep private if permitted. More disturbing is the knowledge that most public records maintained by independent vendors are inaccurate and may misrepresent the persons named on them.

Persons with ill intentions can commit identity theft against other individuals by mere access to certain records. Stalking, telemarketing scams, and other phone scams are usually made possible by unhindered access to unsuspecting residents' information by scammers. These and several other issues are reasons Vermont residents usually make efforts to delete their records from the public domain.

To restrict public access to a public record in Vermont, the individual named on it (registrant) must first identify the relevant public agency in the custody of such a record. Once identified, the registrant can contact the custodians to inquire about the chances of deleting their record from the public domain and the procedure. It is also essential to find out about the applicable fees and required documents for such a process. The registrant should ask questions about the type of information that can be removed, modified and the possibility of redacting some parts of their record. Typically, records custodians are willing to provide answers and help residents through the entire process of deleting public records.

What is a Public Record in Vermont?

A public record in Vermont is any recorded or written information, regardless of its physical form or features, which is created or collected by a public agency in the course of official business. Public records are typically maintained and disseminated by the public agencies that generated or acquired them. In Vermont, paper or electronic documents obtained by a municipal officer or a municipality in the course of municipal business constitute public records. These include computer files, emails, photos, or other digital documents. Public records in Vermont are made public to notify the general public of the actions taken by the government and to ensure transparency.

The Vermont Public Records Act specifies that any person is authorized to view and obtain existing public records unless they are protected from disclosure under the law. The Act determines when public records must be made available and only applies to the public records of public agencies. Requesters are not required to state the purposes for which they want to copy Vermont public records. Also, there are no restrictions on how they are used once copied. Public records requesters must make their applications directly to the appropriate government agencies keeping such records.

Public records in Vermont include:

  • Criminal records
  • Vital records
  • Court records
  • Lien records
  • Bankruptcy records
  • Arrest records

The executive and the judiciary branches of the Vermont government are not subject to the Vermont Public Records Act. Hence, their records are exempt from the Act. However, the legislative branch of the government is bound by it. Some public records that are exempt from public disclosure in Vermont include:

  • Income Tax returns on corporations and individuals
  • Student records at a public school, such as transcripts, disciplinary records, and other material relating to a student
  • Personnel records of state or local officials or employees. However, individual salaries and salary schedules of elected or appointed officials and employees of public agencies are not exempt from public inspection and copying.
  • Criminal investigatory files, created by law enforcement agencies
  • Memos to or from the Governor to an agency secretary relating directly to the establishment of policy

Vermont residents have choices when it comes to removing their public records from the public domain. They may either file for expungement, seek to obtain a sealing order, or obtain the governor’s pardon. However, pardons require appreciable justification and are rarely issued.

Does Vermont allow Expungement?

Yes. Vermont permits the expungement of certain records. Through the expungement process, an individual may be able to destroy parts or whole of their public record and take them off the public view. It is a legal process that removes convictions entirely. Some old records may prevent Vermont residents from having access to housing and educational opportunities, while others will hinder them from getting employment. However, through the expungement process, residents can have some adverse information removed from their records after some time has passed. Expungement allows individuals to put the past behind them because expunged records are treated in a way that makes it seem like they never existed.

A bill signed by Governor Phil Scot in May 2019 which became effective in July the same year, further expanded the number of non-violent offenses for which residents can seek expungement. The bill lists new eligible charges for expungement as possession of cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and stimulants or narcotic drugs. Others include the possession of heroin, LSD, depressant, methamphetamines, and DUI convictions.

How do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Vermont

A lot of crimes do not qualify for expungement in Vermont. Generally, a federal conviction cannot be expunged from a person's criminal record. There is, however, one exception. Convictions of first-time simple drug possession offenses committed by a person before they turn 21 years of age are eligible for Vermont criminal record expungement. To file a Vermont criminal record expungement, an individual must first determine that the record they intend to expunge qualifies. However, any offense that the governor grants an unconditional pardon is eligible for expungement. Also, all dismissed charges are eligible for expungement.

Criminal records convictions that cannot be expunged in Vermont fall into three classes. These are:

  • Misdemeanors - Violation of a protection order, violent or sex-related offenses, and prostitution do not qualify for Vermont criminal record expungement unless the offenders commit them before turning 21.
  • Felonies - Most felonies, save some 14 others, cannot be expunged in Vermont.
  • Predicate offenses - Vermont does not expunge predicate offenses unless they were committed by a person before turning 21. These are offenses that can be used to facilitate the sentence of other crimes. They include stalking, careless driving, and domestic assault.

For a conviction to be eligible for Vermont criminal record expungement, the crime must have been committed in Vermont. The following crimes qualify for expungement in Vermont:

  • Misdemeanors - Except for driving offenses and violent or sex offense misdemeanors, Vermont has a provision for most misdemeanor offenses
  • Felonies - The following felony offenses qualify for expungement in Vermont:
  • Grand larceny
  • Possession of heroin
  • Burglary, excluding any burglary into an occupied dwelling
  • Related to fraud or deceit
  • Possession of LSD
  • Possession of ecstasy
  • Possession of depressant, stimulant, and narcotic drugs
  • Possession of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine
  • Possession of hallucinogenic drugs
  • Presenting a forged or counterfeit instrument
  • Criminal mischief
  • Possession and/or cultivation of marijuana
  • Possession of cocaine
  • Possession of methamphetamine
  • DUI - An individual with a DUI offense in Vermont qualifies for expungement if it is only one. A person with multiple DUIs cannot have any of them expunged.

A person who intends to file for Vermont criminal record expungement must not have been convicted of a misdemeanor within five years. Furthermore, they must not have been charged for any felony offense within the last seven years. Lastly, such a person must have completed the sentence for the crime they wish to expunge.

Once a person determines the eligibility of their criminal record conviction in Vermont, they should obtain copies of their docket sheets from the Criminal Court where they were convicted. They can do this in person or use the Vermont Criminal Record Internet Service (VCCRIS) to request their criminal records at a fee of $30 per application. If the State's Attorney (SA) admits that a person's criminal record be expunged, then the expungement process will be straightforward. Both the offender and the SA will subsequently file a Stipulation. If the SA rejects such an application, the offender can go ahead and file a Petition to Expunge or Seal Criminal History. The petition should be filed with the court in the county where the offender was convicted.

If the SA agrees, the offender should prepare a Stipulation to Expunge or Seal Criminal History Record. Afterward, they can send the completed Stipulation form and required documents to the nearest State's Attorney Office. Once the SA signs the Stipulation, the offender should file it with the court. The petitioner's criminal record will be consequently destroyed. This includes all information containing the petitioner’s contact with the state’s criminal justice system, such as court records, police reports, and the records in the prosecutor's office.

Will my Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in Vermont?

An expungement record does not show up on a background check in Vermont. Generally, an expungement order destroys all records of any conviction or arrest information, maintained by any criminal records database. Once expunged, a record is treated as if it never existed because, legally, it no longer exists. By law, employers are prohibited from asking potential employees about expunged criminal records. They can be penalized for conducting non-FCRA compliant background checks for recruitment purposes.

How to Seal a Record in Vermont

The process of sealing a record in Vermont is the same as the expungement process. The only difference is what becomes of a record once it is sealed. For Vermont record expungement, all records maintained by the court, law enforcement, prosecutors, and Department of Corrections are physically destroyed. However, sealed records are not. They are only kept in confidential files, away from public disclosure.

Who Can See My Sealed Record in Vermont?

Sealed records in Vermont are maintained in confidential files and may be seen by the courts. Also, law enforcement can access and use them for future investigations while they remain available for all federal background checks.

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Vermont

Bankruptcy is a legal process backed by federal law that allows a person to get a fresh financial start. Once a person files for bankruptcy in Vermont, creditors typically stop all attempts to ensure repayment of debts during the bankruptcy duration. Bankruptcy records are public records and can be seen by the general public. Filing for bankruptcy may discharge most of a person's debt but will not wipe out all debts. Persons who file for bankruptcy in Vermont will still be required to pay some taxes, most student loans, money owed for child support, mortgages, and other secured loans.

Generally, it is difficult to delete a bankruptcy record, especially if legitimately filed. Although there are different types of bankruptcy, Vermont residents mostly file under Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires a debtor to relinquish a property that is not protected from creditors so it can be sold. The money realized from the sale is then used to settle the debtor's obligation. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor is required to make a repayment plan from their current income that will run for between three to five years. Typically, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies are deleted ten years and seven years, respectively, after filing dates.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows residents to challenge inaccurate bankruptcy records on their credit reports. Such records are not legitimate and can be deleted once the affected persons can provide proof. To delete an erroneous bankruptcy record in Vermont, an individual should write a letter to the concerned credit bureau stating their inaccurate report and requesting them to delete it.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in Vermont

The Vermont Security Breach Notice Act protects consumers in the state from security breaches. A security breach is an unauthorized collection of electronic data that is capable of compromising the confidentiality, security, or integrity of consumers' personal information. Consumers' personal information may include Social Security Numbers (SSNs), bank account information, debit, and credit card numbers, and are expected to be held in secure places. The Act requires state agencies and commercial entities to notify the Vermont Attorney General's Office and consumers once they experience any security breach.

Effective July 1, 2020, the state made some changes to the Vermont Security Breach Notice Act to ensure the protection of consumer's personal information. The Act mandates businesses to inform the Office of the Attorney General within 14 days of discovering any security breach. Similarly, it expects affected consumers to be notified no later than 45 days of discovering a breach.

How to Delete Lien Records in Vermont

The best and proven way to delete a lien record in Vermont is for a debtor to pay their debt in full. Generally, lien records are public records, and they usually appear on individuals' credit reports. Whether a lien is held by a private creditor or a government agency, it serves as collateral for debts owed by a person. When Vermont residents owe taxes to the government, the Vermont Department of Taxes will impose liens on such persons' properties. However, once a person pays their tax in full, they can contact the Department of Taxes via email to release such a lien and delete the record. The Vermont Secretary of State provides an online lien search portal for interested persons to look up lien records.

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