A woman in East Los Angeles had the opportunity to witness first-hand what an angry United States Marshal will do when he is being filmed during a law enforcement activity.

Standing on a residential sidewalk, the woman used her camera to film a group of U.S. Marshals, in what looked like preparations to enter a home that was suspected to be a location where biker gang activity was occurring, when one of them spotted her.

Strapped with an assault rifle, the U.S. Marshal aggressively approached the woman filming, who was still holding the camera in his direction, grabbed it from her hands and then threw it to the sidewalk, smashing it on the ground. Since that was not enough, he also kicked the broken camera toward the shocked woman. Continue reading →

Boy Removed From Parent’s Custody After Educating Class on Medical Cannabis During Anti-Drug Education

On March 24th, 2015, Garden City, Kansas police executed a search warrant on the home of a medical marijuana user after her 11-year old son spoke out against an anti-drug class conducted by his school, according to the Washington Post.

Shona Banda, a sufferer of Crohn’s Disease and a cannabis-for-medical-use-advocate, has used cannabis oil to successfully treat the condition. Crohn’s disease, also known as Crohn syndrome, and regional enteritis, is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect all parts of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. Crohn’s can also cause complications such as anemia, skin rashes, painful inflammation of the eyes, and arthritis. In addition, Crohn’s patients face a higher risk of bowel cancer as a result of commonly occurring bowel obstruction.

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APRIL 20, 2015 – Mecklenberg County, NC

Pro football player, Greg Hardy, has petitioned for an expungement of his criminal record. According to Hardy’s attorney, Tony Scheer, “He’s been found guilty of absolutely nothing…”

This is actually true. The charges against Hardy were dismissed on the first day of trial after his accuser failed to show up to court. Hardy did, however, reach a settlement with his accuser before the trial began.

The expungement would remove all details of the case, including his mugshot, from the county’s records. However, the case was highly publicized after charges were filed, and are not likely to ever disappear from the internet. While this is a tragedy of today’s technological advances, the expungement would place Hardy in a  better position were this type of crime happen again.

Furthermore, if the day ever came where he would need to apply for a job outside of football, he wouldn’t have to report this case on the application.

Regardless, Hardy still faces a suspension regarding the incident. The National Football League has recently began better self-policing techniques as they have seen a plague of its players charged with domestic violence. The most prominent case was that of former Baltimore Raven’s star Ray Rice.

Rice was caught on elevator surveillance video punching his, then fiancé-now wife, in the face and knocking her out. He then was videoed dragging her unconscious body down the hall to their hotel room.

Ironically, Rice avoided serving an indefinite suspension for his actions. Although his team severed his contract once the video went public, Rice’s suspension defense team argued that his suspension was tantamount to a second sentence.

An arbitrator who evaluated the suspension appeal agreed. It will be interesting to see how Hardy’s case shakes out given the history of actions taken by teams and the league. Teams may find their hands tied when deciding how to handle these cases. It might be a good strategic move to end contracts with domestic abusers, however, if the player then is unable to be suspended by the NFL and becomes a free agent, the team’s closest rival has the opportunity to sign that player to a contract.

The NFL has responded to the rash of bad PR by enacting new policies for violent offenders. Commissioner Roger Goodell called the policy, “…significantly more robust, thorough and formal.” Domestic abusers employed by the NFL will receive paid 6-game suspensions – longer for aggravated circumstances – for crimes including domestic violence and sexual assault. Unfortunately, the NFL Player’s Association has not seen the policy, and has yet to approve or endorse it.

Chris Fialko, the attorney handling Hardy’s expungement is quoted, “Every day Americans who have misdemeanor charges dismissed, file for expungement of charges from their criminal record.” Hardy’s case is no different, and his charges, given a clean background check, should be expunged in about four months.

LANCASTER, PA

Steven Breit, a criminal defense attorney and FOX 43 legal analyst, appeared this morning to discuss expungements. The conversation began with the host, Amy Lutz, precariously asking “Is everyone eligible to get their record expunged?” Brett’s answer covers what many people are wondering: “If you were charged with a summary offense, and you are free from arrest or conviction for 5 years…you can have that summary offense expunged – that is erased from your criminal history. This is much different from states like California, where a criminal record cannot be completely erased, as the term “expungement” implies.

According to Breit, there is pending legislation (Senate Bill 166) to expand expunge-able offenses to misdemeanors of the third an second degrees, within certain guidelines. Breit went on to say, and as many people with criminal histories know”…having a criminal history is devastating.” He continued discussing the proposed legislation by saying that a misdemeanor of the third degree (simple assault – mutual combat, disorderly conduct, lesser drug offenses, etc) has a 5 year waiting period, while second degree misdemeanors have a waiting period of 10. Furthermore, only those under the age of 25 at the time the crime was committed are eligible. This leaves a large portion of the population who have committed crimes after that age, with the potential of many years of gainful employment ahead of them unable to find work due to mistakes made in the distant past.

Other crimes like weapons charges and domestic violence would be ineligible for expungement if this legislation is to pass the state senate. According to Breit, this legislation will have the effect of enabling individuals who currently have criminal records to expunge those charges, and work towards careers, and in some cases further their careers.

All around the country, expungements are becoming a common – and more accepted – way of cleaning up  criminal record. Although California doesn’t allow for an expungement to completely erase an individual’s criminal history, it does provide much needed relief in the form of dismissing the charges that an offender was convicted of. This can be life changing in some cases.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

The state has seen more than 24,000 crimes be sealed from public view over the last two years. The push for changes in legislation comes from the criminal defense lobby, and looks to shorten the length of time an applicant has to wait until the expungement is granted and the criminal records in question are updated. The lobby is also advocating for a wider selection of crimes to be eligible for expungement, as well as increase the court’s ability to process more expungements.

In 2014, courts granted 11,598 expungements, 2,798 of which were felonies, and 8,800 misdemeanors. Now to be added to the list of expunge-able offenses are those involving possession of marijuana.

Rhode Island law allows for the permanent sealing of criminal records, much different than other states like California who merely allow for convictions to be dismissed – not a true criminal record expungement. Also working on behalf of the criminal defense lobby are organizations who support the homeless. LeeAnn Byrne, policy director for the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless says that some of the beds available in shelters are taken by those who have criminal records and are, thus, unable to obtain housing. If those individuals were able to expunge their records, that would open up a significant number of beds for those who are truly unable to provide for themselves.

On the other hand, other political lobbies have voiced concerned over the newly proposed legislation. Kevin J. Aucoin has publicly stated that he believes the expanded law would allow for the expungement of child neglect and abuse felonies, as well as those related to child pornography a child prostitution. The one amendment that the twosomes do agree on makes it necessary for all fines to be paid before any criminal record can be expunged.

In any case, the number of expungements granted in the state is impressive given the size of the population. The estimated population of the state in 2014 reached 1,055,173 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 2013 saw only 33 loss-of-life related crimes, but 55,769 crimes overall. 76% of those arrested were male, and 78% of those were white.

In California, Penal Code 1203.4 allows for the dismissal of convictions once an offender’s sentence has been satisfactorily completed. We believe that expungements are essential to the advancement of society. Those who made simple mistakes in the past should not continue to be punished, and should be provided the relief they are legally entitled to.

Fall River, MA – April 15, 2015

Jurors hearing the first-degree murder case in Massachusetts against Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, came back Wednesday with a verdict of guilty. The murder, which occurred in 2013, was allegedly carried out in an industrial park in North Attleborough. The victim, Odin Lloyd, was a semiprofessional football player and landscaper by trade. A jogger found Lloyd’s body after he was murdered.

Hernandez, 25, was 23 years old at the time of the murder and had just signed a $40 million contract with the Patriots. The evidence presented by the prosecution over the course of several months included surveillance footage, rental car records, text messages, and elements of the crime scene. The prosecution also put 130 witnesses on the stand in building the case against Hernandez. In contrast, the defense took one day to present witnesses in an effort to rebut the evidence put forth by the prosecution, and then promptly rested.

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NEW JERSEY

The question, posed by NJ.com, asked respondents to identify whether they believed expunging a criminal record was fair.

So far, nearly 60% of poll-takers have agreed that expungements are fair, and that the expungement process “is a fair way of erasing past mistakes.” One reader expanded by saying that arrests and dismissals should automatically be removed from criminal records.

23% of respondents agreed and voted that “The truth is these crimes were committed.” Thus, the convictions should remain a part of the person’s criminal record.

Many voters (16.5%), looking at the gray area, said that only in certain circumstances and only certain crimes should eligible for expungement. The poll, which claims to be unscientific, sheds light on the public’s opinion of the legal process by which an individual can have his or her criminal record erased.

Some employers express concern over potentially hiring someone who has had moral misgivings in the past, while others recognize that people with criminal records are still valuable and can greatly contribute to an organization.

Interested taking the poll? Click here

As part of Huffington Post’s What’s Working series, the founder of the National Expungement Project take to task the internet for its lack of information on expungements. An expungement is the legal process by which someone convicted or charged with a crime (the capacity differs by state) erases or modifies their record to no longer show the conviction.

Besides the lack of relevant information, part of the issue founders Jon Tippens and Jason Tashea identify with the internet is websites who “prey on mugshots.” Disproportionately affected by this phenomenon are racial minorities, who make up the majority of arrests in the United States. Because mugshots are made public, websites like mugshotsonline.com, the chief offenders, take mugshots made available to the public in 35 states and post them online forever. Unfortunately, anyone can access the site, search the person in question’s name, and potentially come up with a photograph. Although, the site’s disclaimer warns users not to use information on the site for hiring employees, they have no control over what potential employers do with the information the website provides. Furthermore, the saying, “What’s been seen cannot be unseen,” comes to mind.

This can cause huge problems for those seeking employment. Because an expungement, in some cases, wipes clean a criminal record, mugshotsonline unfairly maintains a database with mugshots of people who were never convicted of a crime. What’s more, mugshotsonline is the custodian of the data on their website, and cannot be forced to take it down without a lengthy civil proceeding.

By clicking on a person’s mugshot, the website leads viewers to instantcheckmate.com, a database of personal information from which a report is prepared to anyone searching for information not he individual in the photo. This report allegedly includes personal information, arrest records, location data, related persons, sex offenders, licenses, and contact information. It also searches every social media site, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Essentially, the site is exactly like Spokeo or another personal information tracking website.

After a painstakingly long process, instantcheckmate.com asks for your personal information as well, including name and email address. We didn’t proceed past that point. Regardless, this is a prime example of what Tippens and Tashea are concerned with – that anyone can create a website that preserves a person’s arrest, even arrests without cause, so that the world can view it.

We, like Tippens and Tashea, are interested in supplying relevant information and expungement services to those in need of expungements. Mugshotsonline, on the other hand, is simply interested in furthering the struggles of people who are undeserving because we believe there is an overall benefit to society when more people have access to better jobs and housing, and are spared of unjust maligning.

If you need information on how to begin the process of your expungement, please contact my office today.

For the third consecutive year, Philadelphia City Council member, Cindy Bass, is holding a clinic for those seeking criminal record expungements.

Looking to expand opportunities for those who have criminal records, Bass hosts the clinic in an effort to help people with criminal pasts clear their records.

The clinic will be held in Germantown, Pennsylvania at the Triumph Baptist Church from 6-8 PM.

Ms. Bass is a native Philadelphian. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Temple University.  Ms. Bass is a democrat and served as a delegate for both campaigns for President Barrack Obama.

As the Vice-Chair of Council’s Committee on Licenses and Inspections, and member of the Labor and Civil Service, Public Health and Human Services, Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless in Philadelphia, Ms. Bass has a front row seat to the havoc a criminal record can have on one’s life.

According to The Weed Blog, New Approach Oregon, looking to move Oregon lawmakers forward to passing legislation that would lessen pot offender’s sentences while making expungement of criminal records possible for marijuana-related offenses, hired a lobbyist.

House Bill 3372 and Senate Bill 364 have stimulated New Approach to team up with Bus Project and host phone banks to help fuel public support for the passage of the two bills. Oregon has some of the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests in the country – 1 out of 14 according to The Oregonian. What’s more, these arrests, as researched by the ACLU, indicate racial biases. African Americans are twice as likely to be arrested for Marijuana possession than whites in Oregon, even though they use pot at the same rate, and comprise less of the population.

Measure 91 paved the way for the legalization of marijuana by a fairly large margin of 12%. July 1st is the day that marijuana becomes legal, however this push for expungement comes as the laws permitting the recreational use of marijuana are still being created. With that being the case, lawmakers are subject to lobbying and influence by special interest groups.

The Bus Project is an Oregon-based, volunteer-run political force in the region. Started in 2002, the founding members bought a bus and literally began putting people (volunteers) on it. The Bus Project’s goal is to affect political change in Oregon and shape the future of the state by educating and informing those who are willing to listen.