NM courts surprised by lack of petitions for expungement

Politics - Government

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Bernalillo County court officials are not seeing the interest they expected after a state law passed, allowing people to remove certain convictions from their records. They prepared for thousands of people asking for a second chance however, that hasn’t happened.

After nearly a year available, The Criminal Record Expungement Act hasn’t received the attention officials thought it would. The act made clearing your rap sheet a clear possibility and before passing, the act received a ton of attention leading court officials to believe they’d be overwhelmed with cases.

“The first petition we received in our district, the second, was filed on January 2nd [2020] so some folks were ready to go,” said Judge Joshua Allison. Allison is one of four judges that handle the cases in Bernalillo County.

“We were prepared for a wave of expungement petitions,” said Allison. That wave never came. Only 464 cases have been petitioned in all of New Mexico and only 245 in Bernalillo County.

“That’s about five a week, we expected at least double, triple, quadruple that amount,” said Allison. Allison said with the slow caseload they’ve been able to handle petitions on top of their normal workload.

If that were to change, like they hope it does, they will have to make a new plan. “If those levels reach the thousands of petitions we anticipated, we will be buried,” said Allison.

He believes COVID-19 has made an impact but he isn’t convinced that’s the only reason. “We here at the court recognize that like any legal proceeding, it is a process,” said Allison.

It’s a process with very specific steps. You need to have your rap sheet, arresting department and your petition has to be approved by all parties before you can move forward.

“The whole process itself takes anywhere from a couple of months to four of five months,” said Allison. However, he believes it’s more than worth the wait.

“To close that door of a dark chapter in their lives,” said Allison. The petition does have a fee, but if you can’t afford to pay it, there are ways to get around it. If you have a record you’d like to expunge you can get more information on the New Mexico courts’ website.

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