Imagine this scenario:
Police show up at your door with a warrant for your arrest on suspicion of child molestation. You are completely innocent of any such accusations, but you are charged by the county prosecutor based on the testimony of a purported witness.
During the pretrial proceedings, the “witness” is discredited and the state’s case falls apart. The case never goes to trial. As you should be, you are exonerated.
This would be a harrowing experience for any citizen. The mere leveling of such accusations casts a public stigma on the accused, a stigma that doesn’t go away even after a not-guilty verdict.
Most of us would do whatever we could to clear our good names and to further distance ourselves from suspicion related to a crime we never committed. So, naturally, you might seek to have your arrest on suspicion of the charge expunged from your record. Otherwise, in this particular case, “arrested for child molestation” would follow you for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, you would need the best attorneys and a sympathetic judge to have any chance of getting the arrest stricken from the record.
The difficulty of erasing an arrest from the record was highlighted recently by a case involving Skip Ockomon. The Anderson firefighter wants to have his arrest on suspicion of sexual misconduct expunged. Ockomon was indicted by a grand jury, but charges were eventually dropped.
From a detached, objective point of view, you can’t blame Ockomon for asking for the arrest to be expunged. He was never found guilty, so why should the arrest stick to his record?
Well, Indiana Deputy Attorney General Henry Flores Jr. argues that an arrest can be expunged only if one of the following conditions exists: no criminal charges were filed, charges were dropped because of mistaken identity, no offense was committed or there was no probable cause.
Wait a minute: Isn’t our justice system based on the tenet of “innocent until proven guilty”? One of Flores’ criteria, that no offense was committed, seems to place the onus of proving innocence on the accused party.
Whatever you think of the Skip Ockomon case, folks who are charged but never convicted should have more recourse to have the arrest stricken from their record. Not enabling them to do so ensures that the stigma of the arrest — despite the absence of an ensuing conviction — is stamped upon their past like a scarlet letter.
Imagine this scenario:
- Scott Underwood: Nightmares from high school proms past I wore a salmon-colored tuxedo with a cummerbund and tails to my senior prom. I was 6-foot-6 and 175 pounds. A beanpole.
- You Said It: About financial woes, cold weather, and mother reunited with baby Each Monday, The Herald Bulletin publishes “You Said It,” a compilation of reader comments from www.theheraldbulletin.com coupled with responses by the newspaper’s editorial board.
Maureen Hayden: Judge in gay marriage decision no activist
When U.S. District Judge Richard Young recently ruled in favor of a lesbian couple seeking recognition of their out-of-state marriage, opponents of same-sex unions called him an activist judge who was unilaterally trampling the law. The label didn’t resonate with those who know Young well.
- Editorial: Taking a moment to remember the good Easter is a good time to take stock of all the positive things happening in our community. Here are just a few things worth celebrating.
- Viewpoint: Resources are available to prevent child abuse The word "courage" is often associated with the fight against child abuse. Front line victim advocates have long recognized the need for courage in order to protect victims. Behind the scene advocates need courage to fight for funding and attention to the cause.
- Viewpoint: Tree City USA distinction laughable I thoroughly enjoyed your April Fools' editorial announcing that the city of Anderson had received the Tree City USA distinction. Had I not realized it was a joke, I would have choked on my coffee. I was a little concerned that you did not announce to some of the less enlightened readers that it was an April Fools' joke.
- Editorial: Anderson Independence Day parade should be a lot of fun Every community should celebrate and should mark the passing of time with observances and festivals that bring joy and reflect a keen commitment to quality of life. So it's good that the city of Anderson has chosen to resuscitate its Independence Day parade.
- Editorial: School reaction to threat was commendable Teens aren't the only ones learning about new trends in social media. And they're not the only ones tempted to abuse online programs. But being alert to the possibilities for misuse, as South Madison schools seem to be, is a trend that should help that community feel better.
- Editorial: Let voters weigh option of easing daily commute Given Madison County’s commuting numbers and recent survey results, it appears there might indeed be a need for and interest in a mass transit system in central Indiana.
- Letter: Local business gives valued aid to Girl Scouts The Girl Scouts of Central Madison County would like to thank the local Coca-Cola Distribution Center for their wonderful support.
- More Opinion Headlines