The press corps came out against us last year as well. It seems that reporters want to be able to dig into people's past, and that's more important than letting them get on with their lives.
I suspect it has something to do with political figures and accessibility to their pasts.
TEN YEARS AFTER THE SENTENCE IS COMPLETE BEFORE THE COURT CAN BE PETITIONED TO SEAL THE RECORD.
THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY HAS TO APPROVE IT
AND THE JUDGE HAS TO AGREE
If we can't trust justice to criminal justice .... How many more checks and balances do we need?
Should someone who commits a crime be able to conceal the conviction from the public after maintaining a clean record for 10 years after completing the sentence and any additional restrictions?
Or should the public's right to see that record - an essential principle of open government and accountability - be preserved?
This is what the debate over House Bill 1082 is all about.
Proponents of HB 1082 argue that those who make one serious mistake in life deserve a second chance. They hold up as examples some now-respectable citizens who, they say, remain haunted decades later by a single conviction, particularly when seeking employment or housing. They point out that a person's history is easy to dredge up in today's Information Age.
We applaud second chances, too. And we'll concede that personal information is infinitely easier to access than ever before. But we also believe that actions have consequences, even though, in most cases, those consequences should diminish over time - and almost always do. People rarely judge someone with a single old conviction for possession of illegal drugs the same as they do someone convicted of the same offense last week.
HB 1082 is the reincarnation of last year's House Bill 1107, which Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed. This year's version includes amendments made to the 2007 bill as well as additional revisions negotiated this week with the governor in the hope of gaining his signature this time around.
A hearing on the latest version is scheduled for Tuesday. The bill would allow Class 5 and 6 drug felonies (possession offenses) to be sealed after the waiting period, and many misdemeanor offenses, excluding the most serious, such as those involving child abuse. It also requires district attorney approval and court review before a request to have a conviction sealed can be granted.
Without doubt the bill is better than last year's. However, no amount of tweaking will alter the reality that it will conceal once-public records - and through a process that will inevitably favor the well-heeled and well-connected.