Theft crimes committed by a person under 21 may be excluded from criminal records
AUGUSTA – A measure that would limit the dissemination of criminal records for very low-level crimes, such as shoplifting, committed by a person under the age of 21 received support during a public hearing in the state’s Judiciary Committee today.
“I strongly believe that people deserve a second-chance,” said Democratic State Senator Linda Valentino of Saco, the sponsor of the bill. “I certainly don’t condone breaking the law but I do feel that a bad decision or a lapse in judgment when you are young shouldn’t haunt you forever.”
The bill, LD 210, “An Act to Provide for Special Restrictions on Dissemination and Use of Criminal History Record Information for Class E Crimes Committed by an Adult under 21 Years of Age,” would create a pilot program that limits the exempted records to crimes of theft. During the public hearing, the committee discussed expanding the exemption to recreational crimes such as hunting and fishing convictions; however, sex crimes could never be exempted from the records.
During her public testimony, Sen. Valentino recounted a story about a friend who applied for a new position two years ago at the same company she has previously worked, and upon her re-application, a theft conviction from when she was 18 years old popped up. In the 1970s, she had taken a lipstick from a store. Sen. Valentino said, “When her employer approached her, she was embarrassed and humiliated. This has never showed up before. Luckily, she got the new position because they knew her.”
According to the National Employment Law Project, people with a conviction face various levels of employment discrimination and earn approximately 40 percent less than they did before being incarcerated.
Sen. Valentino added, “When I was growing up there was no internet.Today, no matter what you do, it attaches to you forever. And it’s not only what you do today, but now databases have archived millions of records from days long gone by.”
A similar bill, LD 549, by Rep. Joan Welsh, that included both Class E and D crimes passed the 126th Legislature but did not become law because it was not funded by the budget writing committee.
During today’s public hearing, both the ACLU and the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys spoke in favor of Sen. Valentino’s measure.
Oamshri Amarasingham of the American Civil Liberties union of Maine said, “This bill will allow someone who committed a youthful indiscretion to move on and build a life, with a better chance at getting an education and finding gainful employment.”
The Judiciary Committee will schedule a work session in the coming weeks.