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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Expungement remedy now more ‘meaningful’

In a ruling that could go a long way toward ameliorating some of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions, the Court of Appeals has broadened the authority of the District Courts to expunge criminal records.

Under State v. V.A.J., released today, the court may expunge judicially created records that are maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The legal basis for the decision is the District Court’s inherent authority under State. v. Ambaye, a 2000 Supreme Court decision. Under Ambaye, the court may expunge its own records when the benefit to the petitioner from expungement balances the disadvantages to the public and the burden on the court.

The petitioner argued that the remedy was not meaningful unless it was extended to the BCA. In a decision written by Judge Renee Worke, the court recognized that in the Internet age, “the extent of judicial intrusion upon the functions of other branches in furnishing expungement remedies requires clarification and direction.”

Thus the appellate court determined that the trial court judge may expunge material generated as a result of a judicial proceeding -- offense, court of conviction, date of conviction, and sentence.

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