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OUR VIEW: Seal your criminal record to move on

From July 6 through the end of September, the LaGrange Police Department is hosting its free virtual record restriction event.

If you were arrested for certain misdemeanors or minor felonies in the past, we urge you to take advantage of this opportunity. It could give you a new lease on life. If approved, those records will be sealed from employment checks.

A criminal record, even if it’s a shoplifting charge from 20 years ago, can follow you for the rest of your life. The most common problem you face is seeking employment.

If an employer runs background checks on two equally qualified candidates, and one has a record and one doesn’t, who do you think will get the job? The playing field will not be equal, which is why LPD is doing this.

LPD staff have said people face other challenges due to their record — some can’t even coach little league sports because of it.

Normally, restriction is available year-round, but costs $25 per arrest, plus $10 just to retrieve the file. Between now and Sept. 30, though, it’s completely free

Record restriction is a positive initiative by the LPD. Just because someone made a mistake long ago, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a second chance and a chance to move on with their life.

The restriction has to be approved by the office that handled the case. The general public doesn’t have to worry that child abusers will be able to hide their past, as crimes like those can’t be restricted.

Plus, some people have criminal records on file despite never being charged in court or convicted of a crime. Even if charges were dropped or a person was found innocent, the mere fact of being arrested can haunt their career.

The LPD said that as of a week ago, just about 35 people had applied to have their records restricted this year, a figure they called “kind of low.” Last year, at an in-person event, more than 200 people were able to restrict their records in one day.

We realize the pandemic has made it harder for the LPD to communicate this event, and perhaps more difficult for people to correspond with LPD and fill out paperwork. Taking some time out of your day to get this taken care of, however, is more than worth it, especially if you’re looking for a new job.

Those who wish to have a record restricted can download and fill out the paperwork online at http://lagrangepd.org/ or visit the lobby of the police department to complete it.

One restriction packet is required per arrest. For questions about record restriction, contact Susan Whitley, terminal agency coordinator, at SWhitley@lagrangega.org or (706) 883-2605.