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State Supreme Court May Eliminate Online Access To Dismissed Criminal Cases

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Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz says police routinely used the website and calls it a “good valuable tool”

The New Mexico Supreme Court may eliminate online access to dismissed criminal cases despite law enforcement officials contention that it’s a “very helpful tool.”

A subcommittee of the Judicial Information Systems Council recommended all cases that were either dismissed or whose defendant was acquitted or found not guilty should no longer be available on the state’s website, www.nmcourts.gov.

Police routinely use the website and consider it a “huge resource,” Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said. Police have a variety of other databases to look up case information, Schultz said.

The recommendation says law enforcement would not be affected because police could still use a subscription-based database called New Mexico Justice Network Consolidated Offender Query. But Schultz said he wasn’t familiar with the program, adding that such a database would not be easily accessible to regular street officers.

“The main thing (the website) helps to see is whether someone has been arrested before,” Schultz said. “It helps give us a good valuable tool as we try to put things into place and connect the dots.”

The recommendation, made by the Public Access Subcommittee, states limiting online access to non-convictions “will help protect individuals whose charges were dismissed or adjudicated ‘not guilty’ from undue employment or housing discrimination and social stigma.”

But the records will remain public regardless of the status of the case. If the Supreme Court adopts the recommendation, those seeking records, such as police, landlords and the media, would have to file requests and wait for them to become available.

Often times, that’s not fast enough for police. For example, when police intend to arrest a suspect with mental health issues, they often go to www.nmcourts.gov.

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