JEFFERSON CITY —The Missouri Senate gave final approval on May 12 to Senate bills 588, 603 and 942, sending the top legislative priority of Senator Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, to the governor. The bill, a bipartisan effort sponsored by senators Dixon, Curls and Nasheed, provides for the sealing of criminal records relating to infractions, ordinance violations, misdemeanors and select felonies. The bill helps people previously convicted of non-violent, low-level offenses get back on track by sealing the public record to help them as they seek employment.
“This bill provides many Missourians with a new lease on life – a better opportunity to find employment and support themselves and their families,” Sen. Dixon said. “With the support of my co-sponsors and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we’re providing an opportunity for those who made a past mistake, and have paid their debt to society in full, to get their lives back on track.”
The legislation balances opportunity with public safety, expanding the number of offenses eligible for sealing, excluding those offenses deemed dangerous, violent or otherwise not proper for expungement. It also places lifetime limits on the number of offenses an individual may seek to have sealed. Once closed, the records are no longer available to the public, but remain available in the future for criminal justice purposes.
“This expungement bill will ensure that individuals who have paid their debt to society have a path forward for themselves and for their families,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. “As a result, thousands of Missourians will now have new opportunities to contribute positively in their communities.”
Alongside Missouri lawmakers, members of the Missouri Bar Association’s Drafting Committee also expressed support for the bill.
“This bill works to improve the lives of Missouri citizens by helping those who’ve made mistakes get back on track,” said Erik Bergmanis of Camdenton, 2015-16 president of The Missouri Bar. “It does so by allowing those previously convicted of nonviolent, low-level offenses to petition a judge to seal their criminal record in order to aid them in seeking and obtaining employment.”
Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System said, “This effort will eliminate the far-reaching stigma of a criminal conviction for thousands who pose no risk to public safety. No longer will a mistake made at age 22 keep a parent from chaperoning a school trip, prevent them from taking their child hunting or otherwise stop them from providing for their family.”
“We applaud Sen. Dixon for his leadership in forging a common-sense approach to expungement,” said Jason Lamb, executive director of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “This process promotes fairness and protects public safety. We are proud to have worked with Sen. Dixon and others on it.”
Senate bills 588, 603 & 942 now await the governor’s signature before they can become law. For more on this measure and others, visit www.senate.mo.gov.