St. Paul, Minn has a new bill that may someday make it’s way to California. It is called the criminal records expungement bill. The bill will allow those convicted of misdemeanors and some low-level felonies, to get their criminal records sealed.
The idea behind the new law is designed to help people go forward with their lives and help with potential jobs and housing. There are many companies who have policies against hiring people with a criminal record, even if that record is 20 years old. The mistakes people make when they are young follow them around for the rest of their lives and in many cases, prevent them from getting good jobs.
During the signing ceremony, a woman spoke of how two misdemeanor convictions, when she was 18 and 20, have derailed her getting hired with good companies. Even though she has changed her life and worked her way through college, her criminal background continues to hold her back. She earned a marketing degree but lost out on good jobs once a background check was done.
It is not benefiting society as a whole to hold people back who have worked hard to better their lives, only to be turned down due to past mistakes. While it is understandable that the are certain convictions that will and should prevent people from holding certain jobs, minor misdemeanor convictions should be expunged and/or sealed to allow those who have bettered their lives, a second chance.
St. Paul, Minn. is paving the way for other states to begin to consider doing the same. The way it would work is as follows:
Those looking to seal their records would have to first complete probation and then to go through a waiting period of two to five years, depending on the time of crime. But it’s not automatic.
After the waiting period ends a person may petition the court for expungement. The judge will also have an opportunity to hear from victims and prosecutors before ruling on whether to seal the criminal records in question.
Law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judges will still have access to the sealed records. Companies that specialize in culling criminal records and selling them to employers for background checks would be required to removed sealed records from their databases.
There is much more to the bill but the just of it is to help people move forward past their mistakes and become good citizens within their communities. This new law does appear to have strict guidelines to protect the individual, the public and businesses, but it is definitely good news for those who will qualify and who will take advantage of the new bill. Those who have convictions that are 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years old are still being held back from reaching their full potential even though they have paid for their mistakes. This bill will help those who have been denied access to good jobs, good housing and even acceptance to graduate schools due to their past convictions.