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House approves expungement bill with bipartisan support

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Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque

SANTA FE – People with an arrest or conviction in their history could have it removed from the public record – if a court approves – under legislation that passed the House late Tuesday.

The proposal, House Bill 370, would allow expungement of criminal records in certain circumstances.

Prosecutors and police would still have access to the records, but they would be removed from public view.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said the goal is to allow people – after enough time has passed – to move on with their lives.

Job-seekers could tell potential employers, he said, that they have no criminal history, improving their chances at getting a stable job and never returning to prison.

“It grows public revenue because folks are paying taxes,” Maestas said. “It reduces recidivism.”

Opponents of the bill said it went too far. They said criminal records could provide an employer with insight into an applicant’s character.

“I really feel the public has a right to know some of those things if they’re dealing with someone convicted of forgery,” for example, Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said.

Maestas said there would be safeguards in place, including a review by a judge.

“You have to prove to a judge that you’re worthy of expungement,” he said.

Rep. Andrea Romero, a Santa Fe Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said young people who have committed a crime – or been wrongly accused – deserve a chance to petition the court so they can move on. About one-third of adults, she said, have a criminal record of some kind.

The bill “at least provides them a chance” at clearing the record, Romero said.

Some offenses wouldn’t be eligible for expungement – such as drunken driving, a crime that caused great bodily harm or death, sex crimes, embezzlement and crimes against children.

The proposal picked up bipartisan support and passed 52-17. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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