ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- House Bill 370, which would give people the chance to clear their criminal record, is moving forward in the legislature.

It passed the full House in February and passed its first committee in the Senate Tuesday.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas is sponsoring the bill.

He said it would give people who are convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony the change to have their criminal record erased after they serve their sentence.

It would also apply to identity theft cases.

“So, when you’re eligible, you can petition the court, obviously a lot of horrible crimes you’re ineligible, but you can petition the court and take these off court websites and make them unavailable for the public,” Maestas said. “They’re still available to law enforcement and they’re still available if those federal background checks or state required background checks require an extensive background.”

Depending on the crime, people could face a waiting period before they could petition the court.

The decision to expunge a person’s record would ultimately be up to a judge.

Maestas believes it would be easier for someone to find a job or get housing if their criminal record is cleared.

“If you got arrested in your early 20s, and you’re applying for a big, real job in your 40s, you have to explain it, that’s not who you are,” Maestas said. “Over the course of 10 or 20 years, you can expunge those arrest records which remain on your record and have a fresh start for employment”

However, Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said the bill means employers wouldn’t have the full picture of who they’re hiring.

“The bill would wipe out the criminal histories of not only some non-violent offenders but some serious offenders and that is a big problem for business,” Cole sale.

She believes an employer should be able to know all the facts about an applicant’s history, including any criminal record.

“Business has to be able to understand the criminal histories of people they are hiring because those some people will be interacting with their clients, with their employees, with their customers, so they have a right to know who they’re hiring and what those criminal histories look like,” Cole said.

The bill is now set to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If it passes, it will head to the Senate floor for a vote.

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