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:
- Editorial: Plan to attend reservoir session As discussion on the proposed Mounds Lake reservoir moves along, there have been strong voices concerning both sides of the project.
- Scott Underwood: Headlines can capture imagination I'd just left the newspaper office one morning and was driving north on Jackson Street, when I stopped at a red light and glanced at the rearview mirror.
- You Said It: About graffiti, electric bill and Dr. Mares Each Monday, The Herald Bulletin publishes “You Said It,” a compilation of readers’ comments from www.theheraldbulletin.com coupled with responses by the newspaper’s editorial board.
- Maureen Hayden: 9/11 Commission chair scolds Congress for national security failures Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous.
- Editorial: Prison behavior reflects inappropriate culture If the Pendleton Correctional Facility is still rife with a sexualized climate, then it is time to clean the place up. It would be wise to reiterate and enforce the workplace ethics. And if one lesson is learned, it is to seriously consider staff complaints about inappropriate conduct.
- Viewpoint: Adding such a robust water resource with Mounds Lake would set us apart I have lived in Madison County most of my life, and for the past 14 years, I served on the Town Council in Pendleton, recently retiring as president. I have watched with great interest the happenings around the proposed Mounds Mall for a few reasons.
- Editorial: Animal ordinance first step in fighting abuse, cruelty Laws like Alexandria’s new animal ordinances are a first step toward ending animal abuse and cruelty. Hundreds of scared and hurting animals are waiting for us to take the next one.
- Editorial: County needs preschool funding Five Indiana counties received great news this week from Gov. Mike Pence's office. Madison County was not one of them.
- Letter: Dr. David and Kay Mares are local treasures Throughout history we have had treasures that were not appreciated until years or centuries after their time. The lost art of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The terra cotta men of China. Vincent Van Gogh was a failing, starving artist in his time. Now his works are some of the world’s most valued. Madison County has a prize of its own that should be recognized in its time.
- Letter: Reservoir promotion has circus approach P.T. Barnum is starting his tour to promote the reservoir by going to all the towns surrounding the dream. Rob Sparks is this town's P.T. Barnum.
- More Opinion Headlines