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Mississippi to decide if gubernatorial pardon includes expungement

Scales of JusticeGovernors don’t hand out many pardons to convicted criminals, especially when their charges involve the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Be that as it may, Governor Haley Barbour granted a pardon to a few dozen individuals in 2012, including one Ms. Rebecca Hentz.

In 2000, Hentz had pleaded guilty to attempting to produce drugs, namely methamphetamine, in her Jackson home. Eventually, her trial concluded with a 30 year suspended sentence being handed down. Even with all 30 years suspended, Hentz didn’t want the sentence hanging over her head and applied for the gubernatorial/governor’s pardon – which was later granted by the governor.

Even so, Hentz and her attorney are now pushing for a bit more: A complete wipe of her criminal record, or at least the parts that pertain to the felony conviction in 2000. Even without serving jail time, Hentz claims her life has been derailed, as background checks – such as those used by potential employers – still turn up the fairly serious conviction.

That said, this is not the first time that such a case has been argued in recent years. In 1992, Clarence Jones was convicted of the stabbing death of his girlfriend before being eventually pardoned by Gov. Haley in 2008. At the time, Jones’ representation argued that he had served a debt to society and in order for him to fully function in that society again his record should be expunged, or at least sealed. By the same token, prosecutors argued that the people Jones interacts and deals with from here on out have a right to know of his past activity. His case, like Hentz’s, is now waiting on the State Supreme Court.

Tommy Defer, Hentz’s lawyer, admits that there has never been any direct precedent, nor state law, which expressly allows for the expungement of a criminal record based on a pardoned status. Even so, he plans to argue that the governor’s pardon loses its effectiveness and purpose when it does not fully allow a person to escape the crime or conviction they are supposedly being pardoned for.

In many cases, this makes the gesture largely symbolic, as sentences may already have been served. In Hentz’s case, due to her already suspended sentence, the pardon doesn’t really offer her a lot that she doesn’t already have, at least not in a practical sense.

“If [this] is the intent of a full, complete, and unconditional pardon by the governor,” Defer wrote, “how can it be said that [the pardoned] are not entitled to have their record expunged?”

In response, Special Assistant Attorney General Lisa Blount wrote that while there are several different ways for convicts to be eligible for expungement, no state-level pardon is one of them. Even so, this looks poised to be less a case of what the law currently says, and more of a battle over the practicality of pardons and whether or not they need to be revised in order to serve their intended purpose.

New Alabama law lets you expunge arrest records

Erase CrimeIf you’ve ever been arrested or charged with a crime, but were acquitted after the fact or had the charge dismissed, you know how difficult it can be to get a job when you must answer the question, “Have you ever been arrested?” in the affirmative. In Alabama, you’ve always had the option to petition the court for expungement of an arrest, but the courts were inconsistent in how they responded to the requests.

On July 7, 2014, a new law goes into effect with clear guidelines on how you can get your criminal charges expunged. [Read more...]

Does legal marijuana mean more business for DUI defense attorneys?

Police lineWashington State has notified permit holders that they can finally open their retail marijuana stores. There is a required waiting period that lets store owners open 24 hours after they place their orders for product. So, we can expect the first marijuana shops to be opening in the state as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday). [Read more...]

New Jersey bill would give job seekers prior convictions a fair chance

Background Check RequestA bill in New Jersey that provides job seekers who have made past transgressions the opportunity to fare better in the job market just needs the Governor’s signature to become law. It is no secret that for ex-convicts and those with a criminal record, securing stable employment after having been in jail or after committing a crime can be quite difficult. Thanks to the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, ex-convicts looking to better their lives may find their job search much easier. [Read more...]

Nevada has to cope with a whole lot of missing criminal records data

HandcuffsSo, what happens when a study finds that nearly 1,000,000 documents related to criminal records have gone missing? Carson City, Nevada is about to find out. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a recent study found that there have been over 800,000 criminal cases, going back as far as 20 years that various law enforcement outfits failed to properly forward to the state offices tasked with putting them into the public records database. [Read more...]

New York to give children’s organizations access to federal databases

Background Check RequestChildren’s organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, are now pushing for laws in New York City that would allow them better access to criminal background information for potential staffers and employees. Sen. Charles Schumer is the one proposing the legislation, which would allow such organizations to access federal criminal and other databases to fully evaluate the risk of a potential new hire. [Read more...]

New York resident unwittingly finds himself on renter blacklist

DeniedImagine the following scenario: You’re a doctorate student of 28 years old, with years of rental history under your belt. You’re smart about your payment schedule and you keep your debts in control. One day, it comes time to move and you’re looking for another apartment to begin the next chapter of your life in. You look around, and settle on a lovely apartment, and begin on the paper work. Part way through the process, however, you get a call to let you know that your application has been denied, and won’t be moved forward. You inquire as to the reason, and the answer shocks you: You’re on the city’s “renter blacklist,” and you’re going to have trouble finding anyone to rent you a property. [Read more...]

California bills will help young offenders leave the past behind

Sealed RecordsRight now in California, Democrat Governor Jerry Brown is carrying with him a couple of interesting bills that will no doubt come to a vote in the house within the next couple of months. The first, and the one with the most potential for impact, is SB1198, and it’s aimed at helping youth who commit crimes move on from their old ways. [Read more...]

New York will fine employers that ask about criminal records

DollarsNew York has just taken a big step toward improving employability prospects for those with criminal records with the introduction of the “Fair Chance” bill. The bill, if enacted permanently, would ban employers from asking, whether in interviews or on applications, about a potential employee’s criminal record. In fact, any attempt to hint at an applicant’s criminal past would be actionable, with a potential fine for the employer of up to $1,000 in damages. [Read more...]

Minnesota addresses expungement loophole with new law

Erase CrimeGovernor Mark Dayton of Minnesota is of the opinion that once a criminal has paid his or her allotted debt to society, at least for minor crimes, they’re free to lead to their life free of “convict stigma.” At least that’s the message being portrayed with his signing of a recent bill in the state legislature that helps close up a long standing loophole that prevents ease of expungement for even the most minor of crimes in Minnesota. It’s an overhaul to the state’s “expungement law” and it makes it so that judges can now expunge or seal criminal records not only by the courts, but also those collected by and/or remaining within the state executive branch. Previously, this distinction meant that records might still exist indefinitely even after an expungement request had been granted by a judge. [Read more...]