What others say: Don’t delete history

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015 12:58pm
  • Opinion

History should never be deleted, especially as we’re still writing it.

That’s what a bill moving through the Alaska House of Representatives would do by removing court records for cases that have been dismissed or acquitted.

House Bill 11, sponsored by Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-Fairbanks, would restrict certain criminal records from being published on the Internet. HB11 would remove information on dismissed or acquitted cases from Courtview, the searchable Alaska Court System database, in cases where charges were dismissed or acquitted.

A similar piece of legislation reached former Gov. Sean Parnell’s desk in 2014. Fortunately, he vetoed it. During a past interview with the Empire, Parnell said he shot down the legislation because he believed the public had a right to know. We agreed then and still do.

The problem with HB11 is its across-the-board removal of documents. It doesn’t discriminate between when charges are dismissed because victims refuse to testify in court or when evidence was either tampered with or unlawfully obtained. In either scenario, it would be like the initial offense never happened. In essence, history would be deleted.

Those who at one point found themselves in trouble with the law will likely do backflips over HB11. The rest of us should cringe.

What HB11 threatens to eliminate are patterns of behavior. If domestic violence charges were dismissed because the victim refuses to testify — which in Alaska is far too common — then in the public’s eyes it would be as though the incident never existed. If the same suspect were to be charged with a similar crime in future years, it would appear as though it was the first offense of that nature.

We understand all too well that charges aren’t the same as verdicts, and sometimes good people are falsely accused. Those incidences tend to be the exception, not the rule. What is more likely to happen is many individuals who should have a criminal record (or a longer one, at least) will have the slate wiped clean.

Alaskans have the right to know what their neighbors, coworkers, employees, kids’ teachers and more have been accused of, not just what they were convicted of. It matters.

The Empire recently updated a past article because a gun charge against a man resulted in an appeal and acquittal over a technicality two years after the initial charges. Those records should not disappear entirely. The indictment and guilty verdict reported on at the time were accurate. The story happened to play out longer than expected. That’s not to say the man and the gun never existed.

If Wilson’s bill becomes law, we’ll be rewriting history. Sure, they’re parts of history that those involved would sooner forget, but that doesn’t mean the events never happened — or that they couldn’t happen again.

— Juneau Empire,

March 25

More in Opinion

This July 16, 2019, file photo shows the Capitol Dome in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Opinion: The Respect for Marriage Act represents a balanced approach

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported a “fairness for all” approach

Deven Mitchell greets his fellow members of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees at the start of his interview to be the APFC’s new executive director on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: It’s an honor to now lead Alaska’s largest renewable resource

As a lifelong Alaskan, leading APFC is my childhood dream come true

Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”