Thursday, July 2, 2009

As another reminder that merely being charged with a crime is a major problem, I have been checking out some of the websites that offer criminal background information. These websites offer some free information, but mostly they offer a paid service. The free information I found was enough to convince me that particular website is reckless and irresponsible with its criminal background "information".

As a test, I looked up individuals that I knew had been wrongly charged with some serious charges. In one case, the complaining witness has since been charged with crimes for fabricating the charges against an innocent man. The details of her story proved impossible and she was ultimately caught on tape admitting that she had made it all up in an extortion effort. The fake charges were dismissed with prejudice, which is a big deal in law world because that means the charge is completely done and cannot be revived. Usually, a charge is dismissed without prejudice, so when the judge dismisses with prejudice, it's a true exoneration of the defendant or a total condemnation of the state's actions. In this particular case, it was truly an exoneration.

And yet, according to this website that offers free criminal background information, this individual has 4 very serious charges outstanding. There is a spot in their records for a disposition of the case, but in this case, the records indicate the charges are "not disposed". The website also kindly offers the source of the information. If you click on the link, a pop-up box appears that says if you object to the information listed here, take it up with the source. But, no, the website doesn't offer the contact information for any of those sources.

So this website trolls county clerk's offices for charging information, but we now know they are not following up. If they were, they would have either removed this man's record altogether or they would at least have indicated the charges were dismissed. But as it is, well-meaning people who want to check up on this man will find out about these serious allegations without any idea of how false those allegations were.

Just one more reminder that police and prosecutors need to be very careful with their charging decisions. These things can follow even innocent, exonerated people for a long, long time.


Erin said...

Perhaps some plaintiffs should sue the website.

S said...

;) Great defense lawyers think alike.

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