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Advocates Push For Automated Criminal-Record Expungement in Mississippi

Over a decade ago ago, nine of Kimberly Harris’ acquaintances told the police she burglarized a neighbor’s house in Jackson, Miss. After her arrest, the police released her because “there was no evidence.” Her accusers later went to jail for “false accusation,” Harris, now 38 years old, told the Mississippi Free Press in late October. She was at a criminal record expungement clinic organized by the nonprofit Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and their partners at Mississippi e-Center at Jackson State University.

Harris told the Mississippi Free Press she was at the event “to get an expungement on a 12-year-old charge that’s been dismissed, and it’s stopping me from being able to work in hospitals and stuff like that. Once you’ve been fingerprinted, you cannot work in the hospital.” An arrest is usually accompanied by fingerprinting, creating a criminal record.

Harris said the hospitals she applies to usually ask her to bring legal proof of her case’s dismissal following a background check that brings up the arrest record. “They’ll tell you that if you have the abstract, they’ll bring you back and they’ll let you work,” she said. “But over the years, I bring them back (but) they don’t ever, ever call me back again.”

On Oct. 28, expungement clinic organizers asked attendees to come with proof of payment of fines and fees and an abstract of the adjudication from the municipal or justice court if it was a misdemeanor offense. Those with a felony case were asked to bring the sentencing order or dismissal order from the circuit court, the indictment and proof of payment of fines and fees.

When people come to the events, the organizers judge whether each charge is ripe for expungement based on applicable laws and whether they qualify for the pro bono service by falling below 200% of the federal poverty guideline. The lawyers will prepare the motion for the petition to take to the circuit clerk in the county where the issue arose and pay a fee. In the case of a felony, the individual must bring a copy of the motion stamped by

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