Lawmaker: Miscarriage of Justice “Horrific”

Apr 14, 2015

A bill to get criminal records expunged for defendants charged with crimes that are later dismissed won unanimous approval in the Iowa House.  

That’s after lawmakers told stories about constituents who met with unfair treatment from the courts.

A woman in Democrat Sharon Steckman’s district was charged with dealing meth, but it was a case of mistaken identity, so the charges were dropped.

“You would think it would be over,” Steckman says. “For her it was not over.”

Steckman says the woman, an African-American, is a medical assistant.   And when she applies for jobs, potential employers see that she was charged with dealing drugs.

 “She can't get a job anywhere because she can't get it taken off Iowa courts online,”  Steckman says.   “So to get those records expunged is very important to her,” Steckman says.     

Several legislators say constituents contacted them with similar stories.  In other cases, law enforcement was not mistaken about identity, but still pressed charges that were later determined to be unjustified.  

Backers say minority defendants in particular will benefit from the bill, which now goes back to the Senate.