Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Legislatures are starting to tell data services – clean your records

Legislative action in Colorado in 2011/2014 and Virginia this year are requiring public data service they must remove expunged records.  More below.


Warning: please note that for readability and brevity I do a good bit of paraphrasing of the statutes discussed in this article.  So please read the full statutes to get the entire picture of what is happening here.  That said, here we go.

Thanks to Bill Raftery at the Gavel to Gavel blog we learned that the Virginia state senate passed a new bill that would prohibit “Unauthorized dissemination, etc., of criminal history record information”, “that has been expunged”…”60 days or more after having received notice of the issuance of a court order to expunge such information”.  Further they “shall be liable to the subject of the criminal history record information for actual damages”.  The legislation now goes to the state house for further action.

 Bill also reminded me that back in 2011 we posted a note about Colorado’s legislative action (later amended in 2014) stating in C.R.S. 24-72-302 “if a Colorado State court orders a criminal record sealed, "each custodian of the records" must seal the record.  The definition of custodian" is limited to "the official custodian or any authorized person having personal custody and control of the criminal justice records in question." But the legislation added in section (11) the definition of a “Private Custodian” as “a private entity that has custody of the criminal justice records in question and is in the business of providing the information to others.”

C.R.S 24-72-702 further defines the “Sealing of arrest and criminal records other than convictions”

Get that... “other than convictions”.

The petitioner shall be able to “provide a private custodian with a copy of the order and send the private custodian an electronic notification of the order”.  “Each private custodian that receives a copy of the order from the petitioner shall remove the records that are subject to an order from its database.”

How could this work from a technical perspective (this is the Court “Technology” Bulletin after all)? Obviously this is new requirement for the courts and the data collectors to plan for in their systems.  So one answer I can think of is that we need to design the database records in the CCMS with a unique record identifier for each case entry or order/document.  This would allow for a “pinpoint” retrieval of the record to be expunged.

If your CCMS uses a document management system, this is pretty easy to do, since those systems have unique identifiers assigned and stored for each document.  And by unique I am definitely not including social security or driver’s license numbers as the identifier.  The table record for the CCMS event entry is also likely available as another source if your system used a modern relational database system.  This identifier must also be collected by the “private” data services.

Courts will therefore need to start working with the data services companies to plan and agree upon a tracking number system so that it will be used by both entities to address these new requirements.  And while this is happening in Colorado and Virginia, it is one that I can foresee will likely spread across the country.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or comments below.

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