Last month, Representative Charles Rangel introduced the Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2011. The Act allows certain individuals convicted of nonviolent offenses to petition for an expungement upon completion of their sentence and satisfaction of other substance abuse, educational, and community service requirements.
So, what does this bill exactly propose to expunge?
Upon order of expungement, all official law enforcement and court records, including all references to such person’s arrest for the offense, the institution of criminal proceedings against him, and the results thereof, except publicly available court opinions or briefs on appeal, shall be expunged (in the case of nontangible records) or gathered together and sealed (in the case of tangible records).
This raises an interesting post-conviction issue for first-time criminal defendants. If the crime was not well-publicized, should defendants appeal? For those considering seeking a fresh start at a later date, an expungement just might be able to hide their unflattering past from future dates and employers.
However, once an appellate court opines on their cocaine, marijuana or wire fraud conviction, any hope of moving forward without having to constantly explain past indiscretions is out the window.