Early this year, the North Dakota House and Senate both passed, and the Governor signed, a bill that seals the record of someone convicted of a DUI after 7 years, under certain conditions. The new law allows a person to move on without being followed through life by the conviction.
The debate on the bill also illustrated some of the other consequences of having a mark on your record and of having a clean record.
New Year may mean a spotless record
Under the new law, a person’s DUI conviction must be sealed if they aren’t convicted of another DUI or of anything else within seven years.
It doesn’t matter if the first conviction was the result of a guilty plea, a “no contest” plea or some another manner of conviction. It must be the only conviction during the 7 years.
The law applies to drivers with a single offense and doesn’t apply to people with a commercial driver’s license. Its text is available at the state’s Century Code under 39-08-01.6.
Strong support for a second chance
Arguments in favor of the change leaned heavily in favor of relieving the burden of living life with a DUI conviction, at least for people with an otherwise clean record.
The law was introduced into the Legislatures by a bipartisan group of 10 representatives. The Senator from District 29 agreed that the previous law needed reform, saying “Even if they made a mistake just once, it is on their record forever. Even if they straighten their life out, it hinders many opportunities they may have in life.”
The House passed the bill by a vote of 89 to 2, the Senate passed it by 42 to 2 and the Governor signed it into law on April 10.
Some reservations expressed about scrubbed records
Some concerns were raised. They emphasized that a sealed record truly makes the conviction appear to have never happened at all. They’re also reminders of the way people make use of criminal records.
The Stutsman County sheriff expressed support, but with caution. “I’ve heard people are having a tough time getting housing and jobs even if they have a misdemeanor (on their record), but if I run a criminal history on someone we’re looking to hire, I want to know everything.”
The safety director of a North Dakota trucking company emphasized the seriousness of alcohol violations for a trucking company and noted that the company’s insurer prefers to see a person’s entire record in detail.
Nonetheless, the safety director felt that a single conviction 7 years before was below the threshold that would normally bar being hired at the company.