Contributed by Laverne Lewis Gaskins, Esq.
Because human beings escape perfection, mistakes in judgement are expected. However, in the context of the criminal justice system, mistakes of judgment occupy a different, more serious space. Because we live in a society of laws, people should be held accountable for their behavior. We accept and understand that if someone violates the law, reasonable punishment is expected. However, after a person successfully completes the terms and conditions of their sentence, what happens next? What happens to those records? The consequences of mistakes may be minor for some, and may be life-altering for others. For those individuals who are convicted as teenagers (not as a juvenile), the impact of a criminal case is most profound when employment and education goals appear forever bound to the mistakes of youth. For some, who have completed their sentence years ago, the odds of leaving the past where it belongs appears insurmountable.
One of the first clients assigned to me under the A2J virtual record restriction clinic demonstrates this observation. My client was a high school graduate with a diploma in medical assistance, with the desire to become a certified nursing assistant. She had been informed that her application to the nursing assistant program was denied because her criminal records history revealed a conviction. The case and subsequent conviction occurred when she was young. I filed a Petition to Restrict and Seal Records of a Youthful Offender Conviction, and secured an order restricting her record. This order served as a necessary step in removing a barrier that interfered with my client’s goals.
Good people sometimes make bad decisions. Years old cases, should not forever define a person’s circumstance or permanently interfere with career goals. These Clinics provide a valued vehicle that facilitates legal proceedings for people to gain opportunities. An opportunity to dream. An opportunity to enjoy the freedom of developing a successful, and productive life.