When a constituent complained to Vermont state Sen. Dick Sears that she couldn’t chaperone her granddaughter on a school trip because of a 25-year-old misdemeanor marijuana conviction, he decided to see if he could help, reports the Burlington Free Press. Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has proposed a bill that would let people ask courts to approve the destruction of records of their nonviolent misdemeanor convictions after a decade if they had no convictions for felonies during that period.
Court approval of requests to expunge records would mean the individuals would be treated as if they had never been arrested or convicted for purposes of employment, for example, or entering the military. “I’m all for open government. That isn’t the issue here,” Sears said. He argued an expungement process would give people a chance to live normal lives after “they have overcome whatever stupid thing they have done.” Allen Gilbert of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont frequently presses for greater openness in government and also privacy protection but doesn’t oppose Sears’ bill. He warned that individuals who went through the process shouldn’t think expungement of official criminal records would erase all traces of their convictions. “I don’t think expungement can rewrite history anymore,” Gilbert said. “Our electronic data world has made that impossible