Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
Summary: This bill empowers the Commonwealth to expunge a criminal record where the defendant was mistakenly brought into the criminal justice system because of misidentification, fraud, or procedural error.
Why This Matters: Right now, it is impossible to permanently erase a criminal record in Massachusetts. This is unfair to people who, through no fault of their own, are charged with a crime (or “arraigned”) because of a mistake in the criminal process.
In 2006, an innocent Boston woman was mistakenly arraigned after being misidentified by the police, and then erroneously told to go to the wrong courtroom. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2010 that the woman could not have her record erased (or “expunged”), even though the criminal charge was obviously a mistake, because no law existed that allowed the court to erase her record. As a result, this woman will continue to have a CORI file and criminal record, with all the implications that can have for her future career prospects.
You can learn more about this case from a Boston Globe story: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/03/26/sjc_says_judges_cannot_expunge_criminal_records/.
What this Bill Would Do: This bill would allow a court to order the Commonwealth to expunge any criminal charges that a defendant could prove were a mistake resulting from misidentification, fraud, or procedural error.