LITTLE ROCK — A judge’s ruling Friday granting a man’s request to expunge a 10-year-old misdemeanor DWI conviction affirmed a 2011 law which added several crimes for which offenders could seek to have their convictions voided, the law’s sponsor said.
In granting the request Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims did not mention a ruling last year by Little Rock Traffic Court Judge Vic Fleming that Act 626 of 2011 was unconstitutional.
Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, who sponsored Act 626, said the Sims’ omission of Fleming’s ruling means the law meets constitutional muster.
“It means that the expungement statute is alive and well,” Nickels said.
Last summer, Fleming denied the offender’s request to have his DWI conviction expunged under Act 626, with added DWI to the list of convictions that can be expunged, along with negligent homicide, third-degree battery, indecent exposure, public sexual indecency, fourth-degree sexual assault and third-degree domestic battery.
The traffic judge said Act 626 was vague, particularly in the section that says a judge is required to grant expungement “unless the court is presented with and finds that there is clear and convincing evidence that the misdemeanor conviction should not be expunged under this chapter.”
“Fleming “denied it based on constitutional grounds, and that was appealed to the circuit court and the circuit judge granted the expungement,” in essence affirming the law, Nickels said Friday.
Debra Reece, attorney for the man who appealed Fleming’s ruling to circuit court, stopped short of embracing Nickels’ interpretation of the circuit judge’s ruling on Act 626.
“Clearly he didn’t have a problem with (the law),” Reece said after the hearing Friday.
“He was just addressing the merits of the petition,” she added. “He didn’t find is necessary to address the constitutional and he did not himself find it unconstitutional.”
Under Act 626, the person requesting the expungement must have fulfilled all sentencing obligations and must have stayed out of trouble for at least five years.