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Politics & Government

A Proposed Law Would Erase More Offenses From Criminal Records

A criminal record is something that can follow a person forever, unless the infraction is expunged.  Currently, a conviction can only be expunged for someone if it's a summary offense and the individual has not been arrested in the succeeding five years.

State Senator Tim Solobay (D-Washington) wants to increase that time to seven-10 years, but allow more crimes to be expunged. He proposed legislation that would allow a second and third degree misdemeanor be erased from a criminal record if the punishment has been completed.

Solobay explained some of the non-violent misdemeanors that would qualify.

"Simple assaults, maybe some type of a retail theft, disorderly conduct," Solobay said.  "Anything sexually-related, drug-related type issues would not be able to go through this process."

Part of Solobay's reasoning for his legislation is the permanent nature of criminal records.  He said small infractions of the past can come back to haunt people.

"Folks who have done some minor infraction many, many years ago are finding out that they may be overlooked for a position because of some minor infraction that occurred 10, 15, 20 sometimes 30 years ago," Solobay said.

Another reason for the bill is to reduce the amount of work for the Pardon and Parole Board.  Solobay said his measure would relieve an overburdened system.

"Doing the second, third degree misdemeanors will take about another 20- 30% of their workload off of them," Solobay said.

Solobay said the workers would then be able to concentrate on the "true cases" and not feel the pressure of a heavy backlog.

The bill passed the Judiciary Committee and is moving to the full Senate for a vote.