Bill eyed to limit access to arrest reports

  • Monday, April 28, 2014 11:11pm
  • News

FAIRBANKS (AP) — Gov. Sean Parnell is considering a bill that would limit public access to arrest records after people were acquitted or charges were dropped.

The measures contained in the bill were a reaction to easily accessible online arrest records that employers and landlords have used to do background checks on applicants, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Sunday.

Bill Rafferty, an analyst who specializes in court technology for the Williamsburg, Va.-based think tank National Center for State Courts, said the issue of expunging arrest records has been around a long time but was not as prominent when a records check meant a trip to the courthouse.

Court record websites such as CourtView, which is used in Alaska, now make it far easier to look up arrest records.

“People are being denied jobs, they’re being denied housing, they’re being denied all sorts of things simply because they were arrested and they were found not guilty,” Rafferty said. “The effort has been towards either pulling that information completely out of the public domain or at least out of the online version.”

Wisconsin, Georgia and Maryland have recently considered or approved restrictions, he said. North Dakota removes arrest records from online records searches but allows access at courthouses, Rafferty said.

The Alaska measure was sponsored by state Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, who said the bill strengthens the idea of presumed innocence. It was approved by both chambers in the Legislature.

The measure would seal court files in cases where a judge or prosecutor dismissed charges or when a verdict of not guilty was issued by a judge or jury.

Records would remain open if the defendant makes a plea agreement to dismiss a charge in exchange for a guilty plea in a different case. Legal guardians, attorneys and certain other state employees would continue to have access to sealed files.

A “legislative intent” section of the bill asks the court system to seal older files as much as practical.

Assistant Attorney General Anne Carpenetti argued against the measure and suggested a more limited bill written by the Department of Law.

The Alaska Press Club, a professional organization of media workers, opposed the bill being considered by Parnell. Anchorage media lawyer John McKay said the bill threatens First Amendment right-of-access protections of criminal court proceedings.

More in News

The 2022 graduating class of River City Academy celebrates Tuesday, May 17, 2022, outside of Skyview Middle School just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
River City Academy says goodbye to 19 grads, 2 original staff members

Tuesday’s graduation was the last for two staff members who have been with the school since its beginning

Lawmakers from both bodies of the Alaska State Legislature mingle in the halls of the Alaska State Capitol on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, the last day of the legislative session, following the Senate’s passing of the state’s budget bill. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Senate agrees to budget, House has until midnight

With hours left in session, House members remain divided

Renewable IPP CEO Jenn Miller presents information about solar power during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly OKs new tax exemptions for independent power producers

The ordinance was brought forth in response to a proposed solar farm on the Kenai Peninsula

Kenai Central High School graduates throw caps at the end of their commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Make a great life’

Kenai Central High School graduates more than 75 students

A black bear gets into a bird feeder in April 2005 at Long Lake, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Watch out for bears, moose

Take precautions to keep attractants away from bears and give moose and calves space

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank, left, and Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander present during a budget work session on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Flat mill rate, sales tax included in Kenai budget proposal

The budget proposal is subject to final approval by the Kenai City Council

t
Senate effectively kills restrictive transgender sports bill

Bipartisan group of senators votes to table controversial bill

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, chair of the bicameral conference committee tasked with hammering out differences in the state’s budget bill, signs the committee report as members finished their work on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Committee compromises on PFD in budget plan

Members of the conference committee agreed Tuesday to a payment of about $3,800

Most Read