Expungement Act of 2010

August 11, 2010

HB 17-52, the Expungement Act of 2010 passed the CNMI House yesterday, and moves to the Senate. Hopefully, the Senators will seriously consider the consequences of passing such a bill. In a  place where corruption in the CNMI government is commonplace and crime is rising, one would think that laws that provide for harsher minimum sentences, create stricter rules for government job qualifications, promote victims' rights, and protect the public safety would be introduced, rather than a law that could further contribute to a corrupt system.

Officials at DPS and the Department of Corrections have routinely been arrested. CNMI officials have recently been convicted of felonies.  Violent criminals are routinely allowed furloughs from prison, and others have been granted early releases from prison or have had their sentences commuted. Repeat offenders are commonplace.  CNMI judges routinely hand down shockingly lenient sentences.  The Expungement Act of 2010 could add yet another detrimental ingredient to this toxic mix.

The bill was introduced by Saipan Rep. Stanley Torres in April 2010. The Marianas Variety reported:
The Fitial administration has been criticized for hiring people with criminal records or nominating them to government positions.

Torres, Ind.-Saipan, is aligned with the ruling Covenant Party.

He said convicted felons who have paid their dues to society should not be denied opportunities.

“These citizens lose employment opportunities and suffer other harsh consequences, even though they have already been punished, have already repaid society for their past mistake, and have been rehabilitated as good citizens,” said Torres. “These citizens deserve a fresh start in life once they have paid their dues to society and have shown contrition and been rehabilitated, and sufficient time has passed to prove their overall respect for the laws of the land.”
The revised bill calls for the court to order the expungement of records after ten years for felonies and five years for misdemeanors and traffic violations.

The Marianas Variety reported in April 2010:
Within 30 days after the issuance of the order to expunge, all court records relating to arrest, detention, incarceration, information, trial, adjudication or conviction will be destroyed.
What if all the records are destroyed and the convicted criminal commits another offense? How would destroying records serve anyone? Couldn't the records be sealed, but not destroyed? If convicted criminals have their record expunged and later commit another crime then the expungement should be reversed, and the records should be unsealed.

Should some records be expunged? Certainly in many cases there are valid reasons for expunging records.  Minor traffic violations are also examples of records that could be expunged.  Many juvenile records are expunged after considering the age and severity of the crime of the offender. A seven year old taking a candy bar from a store cannot be compared to an adult robbing a store owner at gunpoint

Most adults know right from wrong and they consciously made the choice to break the law. In many cases their crimes cause irreversible harm to individuals and to society.  Criminal activity is expensive and community members pay with their pocketbooks and in human cost.  Expungement in all cases should be weighed on a case-to-case basis and should thoroughly examine criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, the rights of the victim/s, and if all of the terms of probation, including paying fines and restitution, have been fulfilled.

The original bill exempts sex offenders from having their records expunged.  Crimes of a violent nature such as murder, manslaughter, domestic violence and crimes committed with use of weapons should also not be expunged. The victims will suffer the consequences of these crimes for a lifetime as they carry physical and emotional scars always.  Let the perpetrators also suffer the consequences of serious crimes for a lifetime.

A criminal record serves as a deterrent to would be criminals who know that if they are convicted of a crime they face severe consequences even after any time they spend in prison.  It also serves as a punishment for committing a crime, and as a protection to the public.  Aside from imprisonment, some consequences of being convicted of violating the law include:
  • Employment suspension, termination or denial of employment
  • Academic suspension or expulsion
  • Loss of scholarships
  • Denial of professional and/or occupational licenses
  • Loss of right to possess firearms
  • Loss of professional and/or occupational licenses
  • Loss of civil rights, including the right to vote
  • Administrative license suspension
  • Deportation or denial of citizenship for immigrants
  • Loss of reputation in the community and public humiliation
There are reasons that former criminals are excluded from holding local, state and federal government jobs.  These positions are paid for by the taxpayers who expect government employees to be qualified, experienced, and to possess a high moral and ethical character.  A serious criminal record is not usually considered an indication of fine moral character.  If a criminal expungement is allowed, could ex-convicts be allowed to teach young children in a public school?

Expungement should not be used as a political favor or to allow a friend, political ally or family member to be hired for a government position.  Case in point is the controversial Deputy Commissioner of DPS, Ambrosio Ogumoro who was convicted of a crime, had his record expunged, was reinstated in DPS, was terminated by the Commissioner, was reinstated by Fitial, and now several staff members have filed formal complaints against him.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

True, expungement should not be used as a political favor or to allow a friend, political ally or family member to be hired for a government position. But convictions never prevented Oscar Rasa, Felix Nogis, Ike Demapan and the others on the hit list from being hired did they? Would expungements have mattered? Of course not. Ambrosio? He is beyond the pale.

It isn't the law, it is about those to are supposed to enforce the law who are the problem... change them, not the law. Many states have expungement statutes for good policy reasons for rehabilitation and as an incentive to engage in good behavior. That is the reason why we should have one.

Ex convicts should not be allowed to teach young children in any school at all. Nor should they generally be rewarded with government work. But there is NO bar to employment in government just because you have or had a criminal conviction (expunged or not). So while relevant, the discussion needs to focus on having the law for those who deserve it. Right now, everything is going to the undeserving; the corrupt; the self-serving; and di-serving. "Hell no to FelNO" please.

Anonymous said...

Any employer can ask if any applicant has a record. The applicant has to disclose if they have a criminal record EVEN IF IT WAS EXPUNGED.

throw away the key said...

Federal records cannot be expunged by this law. The feds need to get moving on all the corruption and lock 'em up. They succeeded with Timmy boy and can succeed with the others.

Anonymous said...

Lots of people working in the CNMI government have criminal records.

Anonymous said...

Noni 7:11 What you say is true but I have times in the past gone to the clerk of court to check and applicant criminal record after I see in an app that they stated no arrest of conviction.
They will lie. Without the record available there is now way f catching a lie.

To 7:16, as you may be well aware of in the NMI, it is difficult to get a conviction from local juries as almost all are related some way.
There is too much "family" (and political) interference. Much is by way of threatening the Govt job that a juror or family member may hold. (as is suspected in this last recent case dismissal with this dirty cop.
The courts are going to have to sequester the future jurors are move the venue off island.

Expunctions for All! said...

See Sam Hananel, "Some job-screening tactics challenged as illegal," Associated Press, Aug. 11, 2010, available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g9mBNs_6usTSEuZ9yff-j-evFEzgD9HHHOO81.

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WASHINGTON — Companies using criminal records or bad credit reports to screen out job applicants might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws as the government steps up scrutiny of hiring policies that can hurt blacks and Hispanics.

A blanket refusal to hire workers based on criminal records or credit problems can be illegal if it has a disparate impact on racial minorities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency enforces the nation's employment discrimination laws.

"Our sense is that the problem is snowballing because of the technology allowing these checks to be done with a fair amount of ease," said Carol Miaskoff, assistant legal counsel at the EEOC.

With millions of adults having criminal records — anything from underage drinking to homicide — a growing number of job seekers are having a rough time finding work. And more companies are trying to screen out people with bankruptcies, court judgments or other credit problems just as those numbers have swollen during the recession.

* * * *

Ariela Migdal, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project in New York, said a person might have a blemish that has nothing to do with the job he or she is seeking. And records sometimes are inaccurate or not updated to reflect that someone arrested later had charges dropped or a conviction overturned or expunged, she said.

"Somebody with an old conviction that has been rehabilitated doesn't have any greater likelihood of committing a crime, so its irrational to use that against them," Migdal said.

Ron Heintzman, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said he's seen dozens of job candidates disqualified "for reasons that were just ridiculous." His union, with 13,000 members in First Transit, is paying for the lawsuit that Hudson filed last month against the company which operates bus service in Oakland and several other major cities.

In Hudson's case, she was fired after just two days on the job as a bus driver because of a 7-year-old felony welfare fraud conviction. The conviction was later dismissed under California law, but her lawsuit, filed in federal court last month, claims the company has a policy to deny employment no matter how old the conviction, the applicant's prior work history or whether it is related to the job.

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Id. (emphasis added). As the above story reveals, especially if read in full at the above link, there are two sides to every story. Are these people supposed to remain unemployed forever? There is much to be said in favor of a liberal expungement policy.

Green Cards for All! said...

If we are going to expunge the records of a bunch of crooks (not all of whom are rehabilitated), the very least we can do is endorse a status change for those hard-working guest workers who have worked legally in the CNMI for at least a decade (or 15 years).

If our government endorses one and not the other, it has truly misguided priorities and is without a heart!

Anonymous said...

destroying records is extraordinarily stupid.

in some situations, victims of crimes can have pressing, and even critical need of documentation as to what may have happened to them. for example, people applying for certain u.s. immigration benefits may be required to show proof that they have been victims of certain crimes.

in other situations, criminals themselves need access to such records, such as when applying for schools, admission to professional organizations, for credit, etc.

these are just two examples.