Saturday, September 1, 2007

Too much hiding

Our position: Judges have gotten way too lax about sealing criminal records.
September 1, 2007

Florida judges have the magic touch these days. They are making mistakes disappear right before our eyes.

Almost 10,000 people had their arrest and court records sealed or erased last year, a disturbing pattern that tramples on the state's open-record laws and gives a break to lawbreakers.

This isn't a matter of sealing a file of a kid who went on a beer binge while in college. Sealed cases from Central Florida include a man who had sex with a 13-year-old girl; a driveway repairman who cheated a 96-year-old woman out of $300; and a man accused of pulling a gun during a road-rage episode.

It's obvious that more than nonviolent offenders are lining up asking for a do-over in life. They include people who have entered guilty or no-contest pleas to theft and battery. Pleading no contest means you're not going to fight the charges. It is not a declaration of innocence.

Certainly people deserve second chances, but common sense should prevail. You can't just wipe a slate clean if you've made an egregious mistake.

Potential employers most certainly have a right to know about a person's background. And with rising concerns about sexual predators, you would think a man who had sex with a 13-year-old girl would remain accountable for those actions for a long, long time.

At least the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office remains committed to keeping as many records open as possible.

It would be nice if they had some sensible company.

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