ARE YOU PRESUMED GUILTY EVEN WHEN PROVEN INNOCENT?
If you are arrested for a crime you didn’t commit, you may have your record erased or “expunged” if you are exonerated. Or so you would think. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy or that absolute. The truth is, there are many exceptions and limitations to when you can have an arrest expunged. Even if it is expunged, an arrest or charge may still haunt you forever.
If you’ve ever been adjudicated guilty of an unrelated crime, you can’t expunge a case even if you are exonerated. Why should an unrelated arrest for which you took responsibility and paid the penalty preclude you from erasing one for which you are not guilty?
If you’ve ever expunged a case, you can’t do it again. I guess the law presumes that the unfortunate person who gets accused and exonerated more than once must have done something wrong.
Even if despite all of these barriers you do have your false allegation actually expunged – surprise! It doesn’t disappear. There are certain circumstances for which you are still required by law to disclose a criminal charge, even if you were exonerated and had the record expunged. Immigration and education are two areas in which you might be compelled to disclose an expunged arrest.
The other factor that has made expunction of a record practically useless is the Internet. Many companies collect arrest information and post it on-line, along with mug shots. While your case is pending before you are exonerated of the crime and have it expunged, the information remains easily viewed on-line for months or years before the case is expunged – and even then it is virtually impossible to have this information taken down.
It is simply not fair that if you suffer the horror and injustice of being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit, you can’t get your name cleared even after you have been exonerated. Being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit is horrible. You are arrested, shamed, and your family suffers. You risk being imprisoned and being labeled a criminal for the rest of your life. There are not many things that can happen to you that are worse than being accused of a serious crime that you didn’t commit.
There are real-life tragic examples of the unfairness that can result when an innocent person is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Worse yet, the injustice of such an arrest is compounded by the fact that even once the innocent victim of the wrongful allegation is exonerated, it is virtually impossible to clear his record.
One such tragedy occurred when a highly regarded school teacher was accused of sexually molesting a young student. The teacher was arrested and shamed in media reports and on-line, causing him to lose his job, his career and his reputation. The alleged victim of the purported crime later confessed to being prompted by her parents to fabricate the allegation against the teacher as retribution for the teacher having reported evidence of illegal drugs in the parents home, as required by law. The charges against the teacher were dropped. But his life was forever altered. His exoneration was not reported in the media or on-line. He did not get his job or his reputation back. He wasn’t even given so much as an apology.
Another example is that of a church Pastor who was accused of molesting a young boy. He was arrested and shamed in the media and on-line. The police proudly crowed that they had arrested him in a press conference. Worse yet, the police then charged him with Fraud when a person claimed the disgraced Pastor used her personal information to obtain credit without her permission – all because she panicked when she heard he was arrested. All of the allegations have since been proven false. All charges were dropped. However, the Pastor will always be tarnished by the allegation. Although the boy who falsely accused him, and the woman who panicked and tried to get out of her credit obligation by claiming she wasn’t aware of the contract she had secured on behalf of the church both have apologized, the police have yet to apologize for going to the press and irresponsibly assuming his guilt.
In response to these and countless other similar injustices, Longwell Lawyers is seeking to enact a law that will allow any innocent citizen who is wrongly accused and exonerated to have the case automatically expunged. Furthermore, any person or company who continues to disseminate information about the case 30 days after it has been expunged, will be civilly liable for damages and attorneys fees for enforcing compliance. There is no good reason not to have such a law. If you believe in justice, freedom and liberty, as defined by our constitution, and the rights we all enjoy that presume our innocence, then please support our proposed law, called the Innocent Citizen’s Protection Act. Please show your support of this proposed new law by liking and sharing this article with your friends on Facebook.