We applaud automatic expungement of marijuana offenses now decriminalized [“NY Court System Rolls Out Application Procedure for Destroying Pot Arrest Records,” Sept. 18]. Destroying mugshots and fingerprints and tightly sealing court and repository records, marking them “expunged”—automatic processes the decriminalization law now mandates—makes good sense. It may be tempting to take things further and demand that court records be destroyed, but individuals should think hard before doing so. There is almost nothing to be gained by having sealed court records destroyed, and potentially a lot to lose. For example, an individual whose court records have been destroyed will have no way to prove the expungement to a background check company that continues to incorrectly report the case. More important, individuals with immigration concerns who need to prove what happened to an expunged case will not be able to do so, potentially exposing them to further problems. And there are many other situations where not having proof of what happened to an expunged case may cause harm.
Anyone considering records destruction under the OCA policy outlined in your article should at the very least consult an attorney experienced in the civil ramifications of criminal convictions before taking this irreversible step.
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