Georgia Bill Would Hide Arrest Information

A provision in sentencing reform legislation that would restrict public access to arrest records of people later cleared of charges has raised concerns among First Amendment proponents. House Bill 1176 includes an “expungement” provision that would streamline the way individuals cleared of criminal charges can get their records restricted from public view, provided a number of conditions are met. The executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation said the provision will,” tilt the balance dangerously towards secrecy and away from the public’s interest in open government.” Proponents argue that the current system prevents many people who had charges dismissed from getting jobs because the information stays on their record. “We’re trying to offer a layer of protection on access to that information because it’s causing so much harm to so many individuals,” said Marissa McCall Dodson, a Georgia Justice Project. “We’re trying to make the process more transparent by allowing the public and the individuals to know which dispositions will qualify for restriction and how they can go about the process.”

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