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Maryland Second Chance Act fails to pass

Background Check RequestAlthough separate versions of the bill, dubbed as the Second Chance Act, passed through both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly, it never officially passed because the exact details could not be worked out before the April 7, 2014, deadline. If the bill were to pass, it would shield certain Maryland criminal records from being viewed on a standard background check. This means that most employers and landlords would not be able to get a clear picture of some people’s criminal past.

Passage of this bill would have allowed convicted criminals to petition the courts to have their prior criminal records shielded from their background record. Only those who were convicted of certain non-violent misdemeanors, such as drug possession, petty theft, trespassing, prostitution, driving without insurance, driving without a license, or with a suspended license, disorderly conduct, malicious destruction of property under $500, and disturbing the peace, would be eligible.

In addition, the criminal must wait for at least three to five years, depending on the crime, before being able to petition the courts. If the criminal is convicted of another crime during that time period, their petition is automatically denied. While the majority of employers would be banned from seeing these records, law enforcement agencies and employers who are required to obtain background checks, such as schools and daycare centers, would still receive the complete criminal record.

The bill was co-sponsored by Maryland lawmakers, James Raskin, from Montgomery County, and Verna Jones-Rodwell, from Baltimore City, who claimed that passage of this bill, would reduce the state’s 46 percent re-entry rate. Their belief is that these ex-criminals would have an easier time finding a job and housing if potential employers and landlords could not see their past record. They think that someone who was convicted of a minor crime years earlier should not be punished for the rest of their lives.

There are many opponents of this bill, including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Chiefs of Police, and the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. Of these, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce has been the most vocal, claiming that passage of the bill would take vital information out of the hands of employers. For example, they believe a pharmacy should be able to access information about former drug convictions, or a retail store manager should be able to know if their employee was convicted of petty theft.

The bill passed swiftly through the Senate, but was dramatically changed in the Maryland House of Representatives. The major change came when the House added in a provision that the law to shield criminal records would only affect the state’s online database and that people could still obtain the entire criminal record at the courthouse. Although these changes helped the bill pass through the House, the Senate refused to accept them and the bill went dead.

There is still a chance that the bill will receive attention in next year’s session, but it is yet to be determined if the two chambers can come up with an agreement. While some look at this bill as a step towards lowering Maryland’s high re-entry rate, others see it as a step backwards in public transparency and their right to information. For now, at least, all criminal records in Maryland are still readily available to the public.

Michigan allows short barreled shotgun sales with a background check

ApprovedThe Governor of Michigan signed a new law on March 28, 2014, that allows short-barreled shotguns and rifles to be sold and owned as long as each owner follows specific licensing processes that includes a criminal background check and a $200 tax. The short-barreled weapons must also be approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) because of the federal rules. [Read more...]

Murder case highlights ramifications of erroneous criminal records

GavelThe criminal record of a Vermont woman whose two-year-old daughter was allegedly murdered by her own stepfather was riddled with glaring errors, including the fact that she is not listed on the state’s online sex offender registry as required by law.

Legislative Attorney Michelle Childs testified on Wednesday before the Vermont Senate Review Panel on Child Protection. [Read more...]

Should ex-convicts be punished after they serve their sentence?

Erase CrimeWhile it is true that a person should pay for their crimes, exactly how long should they pay? The courts hand down judgments for a certain amount of jail or prison time, depending on the severity of the crime. The time is served and once complete, the offender is released back into society. Yet punishment often continues as their record follows them around and prevents access to many opportunities. This makes reintegration extremely difficult and unlikely.

Ex-Convicts and Jobs

One of the largest areas that ex-cons experience trouble in is in reentering the work force. Many jobs are denied to convicted felons, which is understandable. [Read more...]

Maryland looks to shield nonviolent misdemeanors from employers

Background CheckIf a new measure succeeds in its current bid on the floors of the Maryland State House and Senate, citizens with minor infractions on their criminal records will enjoy new protections against unfair discrimination in the workforce (and in their day-to-day lives).

The bill (designated “SB 1056″) seeks to lessen the extent to which an individual’s nonviolent misdemeanors may be used in criminal record situations, but only after that person has completed the legal sentence for that crime. Applicable criminal record items include “driving without a license,” “disorderly conduct,” and “possessing a controlled substance.” [Read more...]

Man accused of murdering former classmate had prior convictions

HandcuffsIn the small community of Kershaw County, South Carolina, local residents were shaken when it was discovered that beautiful 19-year old Briana Nicole Rabon was murdered right in their own neighborhood. This county, with under 62,000 residents, is not accustomed to dealing with murder, especially the murder of a teenager right in their backyard. This put the heat on the Kershaw County police department, who worked around-the-clock to try to find closure in this case. [Read more...]

Denver city employee accused in drive-by shooting had criminal record

GunAn employee of the Parks and Recreation Department for the city of Denver, CO was arrested on Monday, February 24, for attempted murder.

Damion Baca, 33, was taken into custody during a traffic stop and now stands accused of participating in a drive-by shooting that left a local man injured. [Read more...]

Officials offer details on foster parents with criminal convictions

HandcuffsThe officials in Massachusetts on Monday tried to talk down the concerns brought up by the public that the state had approved several hundred waivers for foster care parents who had criminal records.

There were over 500 foster homes in which the guardian had a previous criminal conviction. [Read more...]

Massachusetts approves foster parents with criminal records

FosterThe Massachusetts child welfare agency is taking some heavy criticism after confirming their decision to allow prospective foster parents with criminal records to take at-risk youths into their homes. Prospective foster parents with rap sheets that have criminal convictions for a wide range of offenses will be allowed to take at-risk foster kids into their homes. The standing policy at the Massachusetts child welfare agency could allow people with convictions for armed assault, drug dealing, manslaughter, and soliciting sex to take at-risk children into their homes. Naturally, this policy has had some serious criticism leveled against it. [Read more...]

Obamacare navigators in California have serious criminal histories

MedicalRight now, there are over 40 convicted criminals working as Obamacare navigators in the state of California, and that includes three people with records of serious financial felonies.

Even though some of the offenses are very old, and even though convicted criminals just make up one percent of the people enrolled to be counselors in the program in the state, Californians still have the right to be worried about their privacy. [Read more...]