Missouri Press Association seeks veto of records bill

Saturday, June 9, 2012 | 3:33 p.m. CDT; updated 3:39 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 10, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Press Association has announced its opposition to a measure that would allow people convicted of certain crimes to keep those records private under particular circumstances.

MPA Director Doug Crews said the organization has asked Gov. Jay Nixon to veto the measure because it would close records the group considers important when employers and the public need to learn about someone's background. Nixon has until mid-July to complete action on bills passed during this year's legislative session.

Crews told The Columbia Daily Tribune that the MPA contends court records should be open, "and that would include what happened last year and what happened 20 years ago."

Bob McCulloch, prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County and chairman of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said prosecutors also don't like the provision that allows crimes to be expunged in part because the measure doesn't include a funding method.

The bill covers subjects ranging from expunging criminal records to allowing some people younger than 21 to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The language that would expunge criminal records would apply to several crimes, including trespassing, peace disturbance and being drunk in church. In the case of a felony, people who have completed their sentences or probation and paid any restitution or fines they owe would be able to expunge the record if they have gone 20 years without another conviction. Misdemeanor offenders could apply for their crime to be expunged after 10 years.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, added the provision to the bill in order to restore gun rights to certain offenders. To satisfy federal law, the felony conviction had to be erased, Lager said.

"My point is people do change," he said.

He also said the list of eligible crimes was narrowly drawn and covers only a limited number of nonviolent offenses.

"Some mistakes are so outrageous that they follow you forever," Lager said. "Others you should be able to move on."


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