New ND law allows those with criminal records to have them sealed from public

Published: Aug. 1, 2019 at 6:42 PM CDT
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Today marks the start of many new laws around the Valley, but there's one in North Dakota that has some people scratching their heads.

The state's new criminal record seal law allows those with criminal histories the opportunity to get their records sealed from the public.

So how does it all work and is it safe?

"Now this opens up the door for a lot of people to take advantage of opportunities they normally wouldn't have had," Scott Patrick Brand, an attorney with Brudvik Law said.

Brand says petitions can come from any charge as long as it's not a violent or sexual crime.

For misdemeanors, you have to wait three years from the time you were either discharged from jail or finished up probation until you can petition to the court. And for felonies, it's five years.

"You're an 18-year-old and you make a mistake and now you're in your mid 30's and still paying for it. Maybe it's just a simple possession charge or a minor in possession of alcohol. I don't think that's something that should follow you around for the rest of your life," Brand said.

As long as you haven't committed any other crimes during that time, a judge and the prosecution will decide if your files should be sealed.

"The court has to take into consideration your other charges, whether you're a danger to the community, things like that. So, the court will decide based on your record. If you have too many (charges) they might not seal it," Brand said.

Brand also says just because your record gets all sealed up, doesn't mean it's gone.

"It's not throwing out the convictions, what it's doing is blocking it from being seen by the public," Brand said.

In other words, if you're applying for a job or housing and it asks if you've ever committed a crime... You might still have to check the box.

Brand says even with your record sealed, some entities, like courts and law enforcement, will still have access to that information. He also says that courts can order to unseal your records for certain reasons or employers as well.

For F5 creator, Adam Martin, the new law breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for those who have turned a new leaf.

"Most landlords will not rent to felons, and so if you've worked your butt off to try and re-create your life it's in my opinion that you should be rewarded for it. Because there's people who don't do that; they just keep living that life," Martin said.

Martin says while he is glad the new law is finally here, he does wish it was more open-minded instead of excluding those offenders of violent and sexual crimes.

"I'm a violent felon. I have a violent felony on my record and the community has seen what I've been able to do. And so I don't think that just because you have a violent crime that makes you a violent person," Martin said.

However, violent felons could be able to petition to seal their records. Those offenders must wait 10 years from the time they finished parole and have to stay out of trouble that entire time. In other words, once a violent felon gets their firearms rights back, they can start the petition process.

Martin added that he and many others in F5 are excited to start the petition process soon. Her says he hopes this is the first of many steps and laws created to give the once bad apples a second chance.

"A lot of the people we're serving are trying to change their lives. So having a carrot at the end of the road for a better life and better opportunities is a really big deal for us," Martin said.

Martin says F5 is partnering up with various local attorneys to put on clinics for those who plan to attempt to get their files sealed. He says the clinics should start up within the next 30 days.

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