ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court will consider whether the state’s courts should be able to erase court and arrest records, and, if so, when it is appropriate to do so.
New Mexico has been grappling with the question for a decade, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/2dWdVEA ). Lawmakers have passed four bills on the topic since 2005, but two were vetoed by Gov. Bill Richardson and the others by current Gov. Susana Martinez, according to a Court of Appeals opinion.
The case headed for New Mexico’s highest court began with an incident eight years ago. Paramedic Christine Stump and Albuquerque police officer Regina Sanchez were both responding to an attempted suicide when Stump grabbed the officer’s arm and pulled it away from the patient.
The altercation led to Stump’s arrest on the charge of battery on a police officer. The case was dismissed in mediation, and the city promised to support Stump’s effort to expunge what she saw as an unjust arrest from any database.
But a district judge ruled that there was no authority in state law allowed the record to be expunged. Stump appealed, and the case was taken up by the Supreme Court last month.
Former Gov. Richardson said an arrest record can be a burden, but he argued that there is an important public interest in arrest and conviction information. He noted at the time of his vetoes that, for example, an employer hiring a driver should be able to find out whether the person has a history of DWI or similar crimes.
Martinez said she opposed the bill because it would “censor access” to public records and said it could lead to cases like sexual assault and domestic violence disappearing from the record if the victim declines to prosecute.
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com