LOS ANGELES, CA -At each of their recent annual conferences, both the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) passed Resolutions supporting the #AutoErase Initiative to automatically erase arrest records of innocent individuals wrongfully arrested due to mistaken identity and identity theft.
Inspired by the wrongful arrest of Hollywood Producer and Entertainment Executive, Charles Belk, who was handcuffed on a curb for 45 minutes on August 22, 2014. Belk was then placed in a jail cell for six hours under a $100,000 bail on felony armed bank robbery charges, because he was mistakenly identified as the wrong tall, bald, Black male, fitting the description of a suspected accomplice.
The resolution was introduced at NHCSL by Rhode Island State Representative Carlos Tobon (D-Pawtucket) and at NBCSL by Illinois State Representative Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago). The resolutions specifically applauds the efforts of the #AutoErase Campaign to bring awareness that arrest records still exist even after an individual is released as innocent; calls on law enforcement agencies to automatically erase records of innocent individuals wrongfully arrested; and supports that the innocent individual can under all circumstances deny the arrest.
“This is a very timely and logical concept, that if you are innocent before being mistakenly identified and arrested, that you should not have an arrest record after you have been released as innocent because a mistake was made,” said Representative Tobon, who also introduced HB5450 — #AutoErase legislation which was passed unanimously by the Rhode Island House.
Representative Dunkin, whose #AutoErase bill (HB169) was signed into law by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) on August 14, 2015, was the first legislator in the country to introduce such a bill. The new Illinois law facilitates the ability of police to erase the record of an erroneous arrest and becomes effective January 1, 2016. “All police districts are not the same. This creates a process for that department to be proactive immediately after they acknowledge they made a simple mistake. What we wanted to do is make the process as clear as possible and yet not handicap individuals who were simply wrongly arrested,” says Dunkin.
In addition to Illinois, a similar bill (SB233) was signed into law by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) on Thursday, August 6th, making North Carolina the first state to sign an #AutoErase bill into law, which went into effect December 1, 2015. The bill was introduced by State Senator Floyd McKissick (D-Durham), who also introduced the bill as Model Legislation for the NBCSL.
“To see both of these important bodies of legislators united behind this cause is awesome,” said Belk, who is also the Founder and Executive Director of Fitting The Description. “This process is completely new to me. I am not a lobbyist or a politician. I am just an American that was wrongfully arrested and personally experienced a flaw in the criminal justice process. To be a part of our country’s criminal justice reform by helping to establish two new laws and rallying support from both the NBCSL and the NHCSL for #AutoErase is very exciting and creates a feeling of redemption!”