Created: December 31, 2019 06:17 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— A law that will allow people to erase their criminal history will go into effect Jan. 1.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Criminal Record Expungement Act during the last legislative session. The Act will allow people to petition to get rid of their criminal record and remove their record from public view.
Democratic State Rep. Antonio Maestas was a sponsor of the bill. He said it’s meant to give people with criminal records a second chance.
"There's probably tens of thousands of New Mexicans that are unemployed or underemployed as a result of a blemish on their criminal history that no longer reflects who they are,” Rep. Maestas said.
Certain crimes, like murder or DWI, are exempt from the new law. Offenders also have to finish their sentences and go through a waiting period before being eligible to petition their criminal record.
"So it's not automatic, but if somebody reaches that finish line, they're eligible and they can request the judge to grant expungement,” Rep. Maestas said.
Melanie Majors, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government said she opposes the new law.
"It changes a public record and we are all about giving the public access to records,” she said. “The public owns those records. The public bought and paid for those them and they should have access to them.”
Majors said she is also worried that the law poses a threat to public safety.
"If someone had been arrested multiple times on sexual assault but never been convicted, those records get expunged and that person applies for a job in a nursing home, do you want them taking care of your mother?" she said.
Rep. Maestas said he disagrees.
"From other states, the folks that seek expungement are no longer that person that was arrested or whatnot so public safety actually increases because people behave toward that deadline and the criminal record is not erased,” he said. “Law enforcement still has access to that information.”
Copyright 2019 - KOB-TV LLC, A Hubbard Broadcasting Company