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Nebraska courts to start sealing criminal cases that end in acquittal, dismissal (NE)

Friday, December 30, 2016

"People acquitted of crimes or whose charges are dropped will have their Nebraska court records automatically sealed beginning in 2017.

The sweeping change, which will affect tens of thousands of cases each year, was approved by the Legislature in April at the request of an association representing the state's criminal defense attorneys.

Under the law, which takes effect Jan. 1, state courts will begin immediately sealing records of cases that end with a not guilty verdict or are dismissed for other reasons, unless they are the subject of an ongoing appeal.

Anyone whose record is sealed may also answer "no" on job applications when asked if they've ever been charged with a crime, assuming they don't have other charges that aren't sealed.

"It's as if it never happened, which is exactly what it should be," said Muirne Heaney, an attorney with Legal Aid of Nebraska.

The change is a "huge deal" for low-income people, Heaney said.

"Because, No. 1, they're policed more, and more likely to be arrested for things that don't stick. And yet they've got this record which would interfere with entry-level employment."

Allowing job seekers to omit the charges from applications will help them get work, she said..."

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