Arizona residents who have been convicted of a felony criminal offense are automatically restricted from owning firearms after their conviction is entered. Arizona law allows restricted persons to later petition the court to set aside their felony convictions and restore the right to own firearms. Felons with non-dangerous felony convictions can ask the court to set aside the conviction if all of the incarceration and probation conditions have been satisfied, and the appellant has been discharged by the court. An Arizona woman recently had her application to set aside two felony convictions denied by the court, and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the lower ruling.
According to the facts discussed in a recently published appellate opinion affecting the ruling of the court, the appellant pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and felony harassment based on conduct that occurred in 2009. As part of the plea agreement, the court noted the two felony charges as “non-dangerous” offenses. After completing her probation, the appellant petitioned the court to set aside her convictions and restore her firearm ownership rights. The trial court denied the appellant’s request, ruling that while the requirements were met for the court to consider setting aside the convictions, the court was concerned by the nature of the crimes, and was exercising its discretion by denying the appellant’s request.
The woman appealed the trial court’s denial of her motion to set aside the conviction to the Arizona Court of Appeals. The appellant argued that the plea documentation stating her crimes were “non-dangerous” compelled the court to set aside her convictions. The Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that while “dangerous crimes” are absolutely ineligible to be set aside for this purpose, crimes defined as “non-dangerous” may still justifiably concern the court, and result in a legally acceptable denial of a motion to restore firearm ownership rights. Because the lower court made clear findings on the record that the appellant’s use of firearms in committing the initial crimes was concerning, and warranted denial of her motion, the appellate court chose not to disturb the lower court’s discretion. As a result of the two court rulings, the appellant will not be permitted to purchase or own firearms.