Thursday, 23 May 2013 18:43
State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) secured Senate passage today of legislation that will make it easier for people who were wrongfully convicted to obtain certificates of innocence and have their criminal records expunged. Under current law, a person able to prove his or her innocence by bringing forward newly discovered evidence must then initiate a civil proceeding in a different court to get a certificate of innocence; House Bill 821 directs the court to grant the certificate and expungement automatically after vacating the conviction.
“People who have already spent months or years in prison for crimes they did not commit should not have to jump through more hoops to finally put the nightmare of wrongful conviction behind them,” said Raoul, who has supported exoneration of falsely accused persons by sponsoring legislation abolishing the death penalty and creating a special tribunal for victims of police torture. “An innocent individual should be able to make a clean start with a clean record as soon as possible.”
Under HB 821, the court would automatically enter an order for a certificate of innocence upon vacating the person’s criminal conviction based on evidence not available to the defendant at the time of the original trial. The legislation also clarifies the process for having records expunged after the court issues the certificate of innocence. When a court expunges a criminal record, it physically destroys the documents or returns them to the person petitioning for expungement.
To listen to Senator Raoul's comments regarding HB 821 click below: