Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cleveland Legislator Wants to Sanitize Criminal Records

If the following editorial did not appear in a reputable newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch, it would be hard to believe it is true. An Ohio state senator has sponsored a bill, along with 5 co-sponsors, that would require the criminal record of any non-violent offender to be wiped from her record after 5 crime free years.

However, expungement is not enough. The record, or any reference to the offense, must be purged from the media archives, even the Internet, or there will be consequences.

The Dispatch reports like this:

A bill sponsored by state Senator Shirley A. Smith of Cleveland would allow nonviolent criminals with multiple convictions to ask to have their police and court records sealed after they've gone five years without any legal trouble. That's troubling enough: Society is entitled to know when someone repeatedly has broken the law, violently or not.

But Smith's bill goes much further: Incredibly, it would require that individuals and private businesses destroy any records they have of the convictions of people whose records have been sealed. Newspapers and other news media would have to delete old stories from their archives and the Internet. Should one slip up and fail to alter these histories, the penalty would be steep: a $250,000 fine. Someone who intentionally told others about an expunged conviction would be hit for $500,000 and $1 million if the information went out over the Internet.

This troubling sci-fi-esque legislation is a testament to the need for truly part-time legislative bodies. The full-time legislator has too much time to dream-up ridiculous, unconstitutional blabber that has no chance of passing and has no place within a conscientious deliberative body.

It is good to see the dispatch call out Senator Smith and her co-sponsors (Senators Teresa Fedor of Toledo, Dale Miller of Cleveland, Sue Morano of Lorain, Nina Turner of Cleveland, and Bill Seitz of Cincinnati) for such nonsense.

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