Arrested RNC journalists: consider expungement

This morning brought news that Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher is still hunting for Republican National Convention evildoers. That reminded me of a bit of unfinished business, journalism division.

The St. Paul City Attorney’s Office has been working to drop “unlawful assembly” citations against journalists who covered the RNC. Arrestees qualify if they have no other specific convention-related allegations.

However, a few weeks ago, a source emailed with a cautionary note: Even if the citations don’t result in charges, they don’t disappear. They could still show up in criminal background checks and complicate life in unexpected ways.

Her recommendation: Consider expungement, a court procedure that seals the case from the general public.

There’s irony here: In their day jobs, journalists hate sealed records, so a bogus arrest may force a hypocritical move. (Reckless ticketing: the gift that keeps on giving!) But if you decide to go for it, Ramsey County’s not-exactly-brief expungement guide is here.

Update: City Attorney John Choi notes his office will not contest any individual’s petititon for expungement if their case has been dismissed, or his office declined to file charges. He also notes that due to state law, the arrestee has to be the one petitioning the courts.

And — critical point here — expungement isn’t just an option for journalists, but anyone with dismissed or declined cases. You can find more expungement information here.

By the way, if you’re a journalist who hasn’t yet had your citation dropped, call Deputy City Attorney Therese Skarda at 651-266-8740, or send a fax to 651-298-5532.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Pat Backen on 12/01/2008 - 03:24 pm.

    Life in a police state (even a temporary one) is so user friendly, isn’t it?

    I stand by my earlier, heat-of-the-moment comments: arresting everybody and sorting it out later is Anti-American (if not just flat out unconstitutional).

    That RNC spotlight was supposed to show what a great livable metro area we have.

    I think the Ramsey County Sherriff’s department missed a memo…

  2. Submitted by Tom Poe on 12/02/2008 - 10:48 am.

    The city attorney needs to focus on whether there was overreaching, abuse, and criminal conduct on the part of the police, first. Assuming their conduct was appropriate or excusable is a bad premise to start with. They can spin this any way they want. What will be interesting, is their response to legal actions by those affected, once the jerks make their decisions.

  3. Submitted by Michael Friedman on 12/02/2008 - 11:32 am.

    When a criminal case is dismissed and no probable cause was ever established, a different form of expungement is available (with just a few exceptions)under statute 299C.11, in which a simple letter requires the arresting agency, jail, and BCA, to delete all identifying information from their computer systems and return fingerprints, photos, and other identification information collected. If Fletcher and Harrington do not timely cooperate with such requests, the police state views expressed in other comments will be further confirmed.

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