Arkansas Bill Would Seal Criminal Records for Some Convicted Felons

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Arkansas Legislators are bringing a bill to the table that would allow criminals of non-violent crimes to have their record automatically removed from public databases.

“There are two sides to the equation of justice, making sure we impose the right punishment and the side of justice where we make sure people who earn a second chance are given that,” Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith, said.

The proposal was filed Thursday, February 21,  by Republican Rep. Justin Boyd.

If passed, the offender would have to have completed their probation and sentence for a felony or wait five years after their conviction for a misdemeanor.

“As a prosecuting attorney my hope is they turn their life around, eventually they get that off their record, and become a successful adult,” Smith said. “But you also have to balance that with the right to society to know about people and keep themselves safe,”

Crimes covered under the bill- a laundry list of misdemeanors and Class C and D felonies.

Smith said as the bill stands right now, it would be like treating all offenders the same.

“At this point, judges have the discretion to grant that relief but this bill would make it mandatory,” Smith said. “It would essentially be a one size fits all approach.” 

Several local businesses said the thought of hiring an unknown criminal is terrifying.

“Certainly for businesses it’s very possible that an employee or a person could have been convicted of stealing from an employer and have that conviction removed,” Smith said.

Smith said in order for it to pass, major changes need to be made.

“I think if legislators could craft a bill that left discretion to allow judges to give the appropriate remedy in an individual case, I think it would be a much better bill. It would be better for victims and better for the community at large,” Smith said. 

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