Bill seeks to change public access to online court records

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 23:00
Goal is to protect privacy, Sen. Dyson says

Sen. Fred Dyson recently pre-filed Senate Bill 108.

The bill reads “An Act relating to the confidentiality of certain records of criminal cases; and providing for an effective date.”

What that basically means is that people who have been arrested and not charged, cleared of charges or tried and acquitted would have more opportunity to clear their records.

As it stands now, potential employers — and anyone else for that matter — can view those records on the State of Alaska’s online court system records.

“We have a tradition in our country that you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Dyson said.

Yet once someone hears the word arrest, that person is viewed as guilty even if charges were dropped, he said.

“I want the privacy of folks to be protected.”

He told of an email he received from a man who mouthed off to a policeman as a teenager, was arrested but never charged. Years later, that arrest remains on his record and he’s been allegedly fired from jobs because of it.

Dyson admitted that the bill is controversial.

“On my end, we have some hypocrisy,” he said. “Thirty and 40 years ago we were beating our chests and saying that we need to be tough on crime.”

Now, however, he believes that we need to be smarter.

“Can you believe it?” he said with a laugh. “Me, a hard right-winger, and the American Civil Liberty Union are supporting this together.”

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