What happens when you are charged with a crime but the charges are dropped or you are found not guilty? You breathe a sigh of relief and move forward with your life, glad to leave the nightmare behind. Unfortunately the situation is not quite that simple. While our Constitution states that we are innocent until proven guilty, your arrest record remains and can cause you a great deal of grief in the future. Thankfully, there are provisions in civil law in CT that in some circumstances can entitle you to erase this prejudicial material.
Police records which contain information about arrests do not include the final disposition of the case, yet they accessible to the public in most circumstances under the Freedom of Information Act. In Connecticut, the law lists only a few exceptions to the release of arrest records. These include cases which would reveal the names of informants, minors or victims of sexual assault, information that could compromise certain investigative techniques, witness statements containing signatures and certain allegations which are required to be destroyed within one year if no corroborating information is found (CGS 1-215).
So what does that mean for a person who was arrested but never prosecuted for the crime? It means that any employer or news agency can request all arrest records regarding any person and be given that information with the exceptions listed above. It is increasingly common for companies to perform background checks, and those checks will frequently reveal any old arrests, even old DUI arrests. AConnecticut DUI lawyer can tell you how long a conviction remains on your motor vehicle record, and should also outline any processes available to have older records removed. The attorneys at the Mark Sherman Law firm in Stamford, Connecticut believe that a person who has paid the consequences for an incident, such as a DUI, should not be required to suffer the rest of their life due to an old mistake. They will work with each client to restore their reputations and to prevent old problems from stifling future opportunities.
If your case has been dismissed, or if you have been tried and found not guilty, Connecticut law does require the associated arrest records to be “erased” after the appeal time frame has passed. In addition, certain offences which have been decriminalized after a conviction can also be erased, but it is the obligation of each individual to file a petition to the courts to have the records removed.
Numerous agencies, including news outlets and consumer reporting firms, list arrest records publicly both in Print and on the Internet. While CT law does require consumer agencies to clean up the records after a court order to expunge records, there is no monitoring provided to enforce compliance. In fact, some clients have even discovered that the arrests are sill mentioned in online police blotters and news blogs even when all charges were dismissed.
The publication of arrest records online is not even mentioned in the statutes. Because of this, you may still encounter impediments to future employment if a prospective employer, landlord, school or licensing agency runs an Internet search on your name and discovers old references to arrests that were legally erased and no longer exist.
Online protection against this type of defamation is a new but growing field of civil law in CT. As Internet searches become a common tool for vetting job applicants, the need to be protected in the public arena increases. Rarely will a prospective employer or landlord admit that your application has been turned down because of an arrest record found online. They do not always feel the need or even have the ability to pursue the allegation to discover the final outcome. They simply can state that an earlier or more qualified applicant has been chosen in your place.
Mark Sherman Law offers a unique Internet scrubbing service designed to protect people from online defamatory material including arrest records. Not only do they pursue credit reporting bureaus, but they will challenge online media outlets which have posted this information to help prevent your future from being sabotaged by the past. Contact us to see how we can help scrub you public records and assit you in restoring your reputation.