Saturday, June 20, 2009

Perry vetoes expunction bill

On Friday, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill (HB 3481) that would have allowed a citizen charged with a crime to expunge all records from their criminal history if the state didn't file a (misdemeanor) information or present an indictment within 180 days of his arrest. The proposed law would also have allowed an individual to expunge all records for any offense which was dismissed, regardless of the statute of limitations for that offense, if the record shows there was no probable cause.

The perfectly coifed governor decried the proposed legislation, claiming that House Bill 3841 "precipitates an untenable injustice to victims and a hazard to public safety."
House Bill No. 3481 would authorize the expunction of criminal records, including law enforcement case files, 180 days after an arrest if no formal misdemeanor or felony charges have been filed. Current statutory provisions require that the statute of limitations for the particular offense, usually at least two years, expire before criminal records may be destroyed, including in cases involving misdemeanor offenses. Current law provides that an individual is entitled to copies of their expunged records after the statute of limitations has expired. A prosecutor may contest the expunction by proving reasonable cause that the person will be charged, leading the prosecutor to reveal details of the investigation prior to its completion. Expunction statutes should not be used as a means of discovery or as a means to force a prosecutor to rush to file formal charges prematurely. Allowing a person to know the identities of witnesses or the nature of their evidence unnecessarily endangers both law enforcement and citizen witnesses prior to an indictment for murder, organized crime, sexual assaults and other serious offenses. House Bill No. 3481 precipitates an untenable injustice to victims and a hazard to public safety. - Gov. Perry's veto statement (June 19, 2009)
I say that if you can't gather enough evidence to file a criminal information in a misdemeanor case or to obtain an indictment within 180 days, then your case hasn't a leg on which to stand.

More troubling is the nonsensical requirement that the statute of limitations must expire before an individual is eligible to expunge all records of a prosecution in a case that was dismissed or reduced to a Class C deferred (special expense fee). The test should be, not whether a period of time has passed but, instead, whether the state is able to charge the individual with that particular offense.

In the case of a Class C deferred, the state may not refile the charge because jeopardy has attached. That individual should be eligible for an immediate expunction.

In the meantime, those pesky little charges will remain on a person's record, laid bare for all, from the curious to the police, to see.

How does that sit with you?


Tomballpi said...

Just another example of how our Governor works. He wants people to think he is protecting the victim and all he really cares about is playing his media game to further his political career. My attitude comes from my perception of how ineffective Perry has been.

Anonymous said...

I think Ricky's hairspray has finally frozen his brain. Or rather, completely frozen his brain.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

Thank you for your comments. As Perry plays politics, our fellow citizens are saddled with criminal records long after the DA dumped their cases.