Sometimes people make poor decisions. What if you make one very poor choice, or if you make a choice you believe is the only choice you have to make at the time, but it turns out to be illegal? That choice may effect your life for years if you are convicted of a crime. What if you turn your life around, or there are circumstances about the decision you made that can be rectified with some sort of rehabilitation? What if the Judge who heard your case believes that you deserve a second chance after you have paid your debt to the community? If that conviction can’t be sealed, the information, especially in today’s cyber world, will haunt you when you apply for student loans, apply for schooling, apply for housing, or try to find work. Even if the Court seals its records, the law as it is now states that the Court can’t tell the executive branch – law enforcement – to seal their records. Even if it is in everyone’s best interests that the records be sealed. Thankfully, Rep. John Lesch, D – St. Paul, has drafted a bill that would allow the Courts to determine when the records should be sealed, even in the executive branch. Sealing does not mean erasing. The information would simply not be public.
For example, suppose a high school senior, who is 18, gets arrested with 33 grams of marijuana in his possession. That is a felony. Just over one ounce. Suppose this 18 year old is a straight A student and for all other discussions is a great kid. The arrest records fall under the executive branch, law enforcement. Even if the prosecutor offers to resolve the case in a manner that will ultimately result in the matter being dismissed, the current law only allows for the court records to be sealed. The arrest records and police reports will still be open and available through the executive branch. That is why employment agencies, housing agencies and others simply take a trip to the BCA, the local Sheriff’s Department or the Police Department to obtain records on people even if the case was dismissed.
This bill, if it passes, should allow the Court to properly seal all the records that hinder a person’s ability to be successful after they have paid their debt to the community for their wrongdoing. Click here to read an article about the process.