Crime & Courts

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Should Georgia wipe clean some criminal records?

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 7:45 AM
Last updated 7:42 PM
  • Follow Crime & courts

ATLANTA – Sarah Hamilton’s January arrest based on a mistaken identity has kept the whole family in turmoil even after police dropped the charges against the 26-year-old former honor graduate, her father told a hushed Senate hearing Tuesday.



“The system carelessly wronged a private citizen, my daughter Sarah. Is it not the government’s moral obligation to correct it?” asked John Hamilton, chairman of the health-textile company Compass Group of McDonough.

The story he recounted provided a dramatic climax to a morning-long hearing of a special Senate committee studying the issue of expungement reform, the removal of criminal records. Experts say Georgia – which has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates – is among the toughest on young people trying to find jobs after getting a criminal record, even when charges are dropped.

John Hamilton said he expects it will take many more months to have her record clean, running the risk that her reputation and career could be damaged in the meantime by anyone looking at government records on the internet.

“Sarah doesn’t deserve this treatment,” he said, noting that a cab driver mistook her for another woman in her apartment complex who was too drunk to pay the fare.

Thomas Weaver of Canton also testified that his career had been harmed because he was convicted of carrying a gun in a public park just months before the legislature changed the law to make it permissible.

“I have to continue to tell employers that I have a firearms charge, and I’ve only found one employer that will hire me,” he said.

Existing law allows first offenders and those charged as juveniles to wipe their records clean two years after their sentence, but they have to request it. Many other states do it automatically. Correcting errors in the record is more cumbersome, according to witnesses.

A change taking effect this year is supposed to improve the process, but experts told the committee many problems still need to be addressed.

One challenge is the fact that arrest reports are public records available to anyone, including credit-reporting agencies and companies that publicize crime news. Those companies often keep outdated records online, according to Marissa Dodson, a staff attorney with the State Bar of Georgia’s Georgia Justice Project.

“It’s very difficult to unring that bell, and it’s devastating for people who are wrongly accused,” she said.

The committee has four more meetings scheduled before the General Assembly convenes Jan. 13. It is likely to take the testimony and consider drafting recommendations for revising the law, according to Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican who chairs the study committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 09/25/13 - 06:56 am
5
0
Crime
Unpublished

Sara did nothing wrong, Thomas did nothing under the Constutition wrong, but these are two differnet storys, trying to confuse the issue. If you are arrested and not convicted, the whole record should be sealed from private eyes. The police do need these records for the criminals with real good lawyers. To develop the case that will eventualy catch the crook and keep them in jail.

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 09/25/13 - 07:07 am
0
0
The going rate to expunge records was $25. Online forms.
Unpublished

The going rate to expunge records was $25. Online forms.

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 09/25/13 - 07:08 am
0
0
Lets take minutia to Senate Hearings. They has nothing to do.
Unpublished

Lets take minutia to Senate Hearings. They has nothing to do.

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 09/25/13 - 07:10 am
0
0
"government’s moral obligation" What planet is this guy from?
Unpublished

"government’s moral obligation" What planet is this guy from?

myfather15
55844
Points
myfather15 09/25/13 - 07:10 am
11
0
They ABSOLUTELY need to clean

They ABSOLUTELY need to clean her record immediately!! Even if she has to take the CHARGING OFFICER with her to Atlanta to testify she was wrongfully charged. I would SUE their pants off if they didn't take VERY strong efforts to clean her record immediately!! Mistakes are mistakes and they will happen; but once they KNOW a mistake was made, fix it immediately!!

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 09/25/13 - 07:11 am
0
0
Dad must be thinking of running for political office. LOL LOL
Unpublished

Dad must be thinking of running for political office. LOL LOL

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 09/25/13 - 07:11 am
0
0
This could be a civil rights issue. Lets march.
Unpublished

This could be a civil rights issue. Lets march.

Marinerman1
5318
Points
Marinerman1 09/25/13 - 07:20 am
11
0
This SHOULD Be A No Brainer

Once it has been determined that a mistake was made, a person's record should cleaned, just as fast as it was blemished. AND why should you have to ASK for this to be done? Okay, Georgia Legislature - let's get with the program. This must be corrected during the next session.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 09/25/13 - 07:30 am
6
2
Not sure about Georgia, but
Unpublished

Not sure about Georgia, but in SC expungement, whether a result of a mistake or a negotiated plea bargain for first offenders, costs money...a "hidden" condition. Another instance of social class disparity built into the system, disporportionately affecting those who can least afford it..

curly123053
5188
Points
curly123053 09/25/13 - 07:34 am
7
0
Absurd!!

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I guess that does not apply in Georgia!!

seenitB4
93819
Points
seenitB4 09/25/13 - 07:45 am
7
2
In some cases

Clean the record....strange that our President has his record hidden..the most important job in the nation but a regular guy can't do that.

itsanotherday1
47013
Points
itsanotherday1 09/25/13 - 07:50 am
6
0
The cleaning of the record

The cleaning of the record should include destruction of mugshots and fingerprints.

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 09/25/13 - 08:43 am
3
0
Police Info

This is more complicated than face value. I agree with cleaning up the record of the young woman, but police collect information of all kinds and keep them in various files, not necessarily about someone who has committed a crime. How do you handle things like that? Should they be able to keep info that says Joe Smith frequents a place where there are known drug dealers? J. Edgar Hoover maintained his power by having personal info on public officials and others. Should police info be released to the public at some later date if requested? I dunno.

nocnoc
47368
Points
nocnoc 09/25/13 - 08:56 am
4
0
I have always felt Arrest

I have always felt Arrest data & Pictures should be POLICE USE ONLY
and only CONVICTION RECORDS should made public.

What good is it to be innocent until proven guilty, if the whole community already has you judged before you get to trial? They will remember you were arrested long after you are found innocent. An yes I have been a frequent part of this prejudging guilt group myself.

But I am sure the Media & websites making $,$$$,$$$,$$$ annually publishing the data would disagree and fight to keep historical arrest data.

Dixieman
16595
Points
Dixieman 09/25/13 - 09:06 am
8
0
Should SOME criminal records be expunged?

Well, yes.
Or possibly no.
Um, maybe.
I dunno...depends on the circumstances.
One thing for sure: Anything short of a conviction should NOT be public!

scoopdedoop64
2488
Points
scoopdedoop64 09/25/13 - 09:47 am
5
0
No Idea

I had no idea that they did not clean a person's record immediately if it was clearly a case of mistaken identity or if the person is proved innocent. This should be fixed.

itsanotherday1
47013
Points
itsanotherday1 09/25/13 - 10:49 am
3
0
Dixieman

I agree about keeping all data confidential until guilt is proven. Let's suppose my wife was the vindictive type and set me up for a domestic violence charge after a spat. I get arrested and my mugshot published. Now, everyone who knows my face assumes I'm a cowardly wife beater; nevermind that I beat it in court later on.

I realize that a very high percentage of arrestees are guilty as charged, but in this country we protect the rights of the minority.

dichotomy
36291
Points
dichotomy 09/25/13 - 11:41 am
3
0
Not only should they CLEAN

Not only should they CLEAN THE RECORD IMMEDIATELY.....but there SHOULD NEVER BE A RECORD in ANY KIND of NETWORKED, NATIONALLY ACCESSIBLE DATABASE unless and until someone is CONVICTED OF A CRIME.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
10203
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/25/13 - 11:59 am
3
0
England

The Justice system and Courts in England only released information upon conviction of the person charged. That is something we should do here. If you haven't been found not guilty or wrongly arrested then the information should be shredded. If you are found guilty then only at that time should it be published and made a matter of public record.

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 09/26/13 - 05:30 am
0
0
England. No cameras or news people in courtroom. NO TV.
Unpublished

England. No cameras or news people in courtroom. NO TV.

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 09/26/13 - 05:31 am
0
0
All of England is a reality show, except the courtroom.
Unpublished

All of England is a reality show, except the courtroom.

Bizkit
34416
Points
Bizkit 09/26/13 - 10:52 am
0
0
Don't get me started you

Don't get me started you could have committed a crime 40 years ago and from then on act like Mother Teresa the rest of your life and that crime will still haunt you. Go ahead and try to get it expunged-good luck. I should qualify from a family members experience. Yeah sure.LOL?;)

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