An important bill involving criminal law will go into effect on September 28, 2012. It has many components involving criminal law, and I am going to briefly highlight some, but not all, of its components.
Employment Licenses and Guilty pleas or convictions:
Individuals subject to “collateral sanctions” including penalties, disadvantages, or disability in the occupational or employment realm stemming from conviction or guilty plea can seek a certificate of qualification of employment that will provide relief from certain bars on employment or occupational licensing. This really centers around jobs which require a license. Individuals must file a petition with the Department of Rehabilitation or Corrections and then there is a process where the prosecutor is notified and reviews the petition, and a decision is made. There are a few limitations on this; it will likely not encompass health care professionals and sex crime classifications will not be removed. But, for many jobs with licenses, this could be a really great option for individuals who have previously been licensed and qualified to work in certain occupations, to re-enter the work-force. And so in that sense, it is really a second chance.
Sealing Criminal Records ( Also known as Expungement)
Sealing a Criminal Record has always been an involved procedure where an offender could generally only have one criminal offense in his or her life in order to get the crime expunged. The new law replaces the word “first offender” with eligible offender” and now allows a record to be sealed when the offender does not have more than one felony conviction and not more than one misdemeanor conviction, or does not have more than two misdemeanors if they are not from the same offense. Another procedural issue in expungement cases is what offenses are eligible to be expunged; this stays intact in the new bill. Certain offenses notoriously cannot be expunged: sex crimes and DUI/OVI for example. And minor misdemeanor traffic offenses do not count in terms of whether you are an “eligible offender”. But like the employment licensing discussed above the the possible second chances, expungement is based on the same premise and this new law should open up some opportunities for individuals to re-enter the work force and be civic minded law abiding citizens.
It will be interesting to see what happens in September when this bill is passed, but it is most certainly a victory for defendants and criminal defense attorneys.