The same committee that set into motion work during the past eight years to update Missouri’s criminal code is preparing to ask for a similar review of the state’s expungement laws.
The Missouri Bar’s Criminal Law Committee will propose Friday to the Bar’s Board of Governors a review of laws allowing Missourians to ask that some offenses be wiped from their criminal records.
Missouri law allows individuals to petition the courts for expungement of offenses including a first driving while intoxicated offense, felony or misdemeanor passing a bad check or fraudulent use of a credit or debit device, when certain conditions are met. Successful petitions can result in the restoration of some rights, such as serving on a jury, and proponents argue citizens’ ability to advance in careers and move on with life is hindered when an offense isn’t eligible to be expunged.
“Expungement is basically to give an opportunity for those people who might have done one stupid thing at one time to get it off their record,” says Missouri Bar President Jack Brady.
He says the issue has been raised with several proposed pieces of legislation in recent sessions of the General Assembly. The Criminal Law Committee felt that was an issue that should be studied on its own and not as part of the larger criminal code review.
Senator Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) is hopeful that the review will result in some expansion of current law.
“There should be some path for some citizens to get to expungement,” Justus tells Missourinet, but she says the scope will have its limits. “This can’t be for violent offenders. This can’t be for murders, rapists, sex offenders, I mean it’s very clear that those folks need to have that record follow them.”
Brady says there is no preconceived notion of what offenses might be considered for addition to expungement laws, now how many offenses a person might be allowed to petition on.
“I have a lot of confidence in the prosecutors and the public defenders and the criminal defense bar and the judges that we’ve worked with on the criminal law reviews,” says Brady. “I’ve got a lot of confidence that they’ll be able to take all of those factors into consideration and hopefully develop a plan.”
Some lawmakers disagree with the decision not to rewrite expungement law as part of the criminal code review.
Representative Kim Gardner (D-St. Louis City) says to her, the issues go together.
“I’m glad that the Bar is taking ownership that something needs to be done in this area, but now lets really get something together because I don’t think it should take as long as the criminal code … it should be a no-brainer.”
Missouri law allows courts to retain files on expunged cases under seal and only available through a court order. A crime that has been expunged can still be considered a previous offense if the person who committed it commits another crime.