Lawmakers Want to Seal DUI Records After Seven Years

Grand Forks police officer J. Moe assists another officer during a stop near the DeMers Avenue bridge in Grand Forks. Grand Forks Herald photo by Eric Hylden

Earlier this week I wrote about legislation introduced by Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo) which would allow criminals (except those who have to register as sex offenders) to petition the courts to get their cases sealed.

Another bill along those lines has been introduced, but it would apply specifically to DUI offenses. It’s been introduced by Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Devils Lake), and it would seal a conviction after seven years as long as the person in question has committed no further offenses:

Note that this wouldn’t apply to people with commercial drivers license.

Like with the Roers Jones legislation, the question here comes down to balancing the benefit to the individual versus the benefit to society.

On one hand, it’s obviously in the interest of the individual to get these sort of convictions off their record (though, of course, sealing the record does nothing to the public record established by media reports and social media postings). On the other hand, it’s in the interest of the public to have insight into who is breaking the law and how their cases have been handled.

There is a balance to be found between those two interests, however. After seven years, with no other convictions, it makes sense to me to let this sort of record fade. Knowing, by the way, that the record itself still exists and could be unsealed by way of a court order.

In case you’re curious about how other states handle this, here’s a round-up.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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