Congressman Nadler Introduces "Clear Your Good Name Act"

Mar 20, 2001 Issues: Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON – Taking action to remove the stigma of criminal guilt from those people who have been caught in bureaucratic red tape, Rep. Jerrold Nadler introduced the “Clear Your Good Name Act” at a press conference today.

This bill is necessary because thousands of people are arrested in good faith by law enforcement, but later determined to be completely innocent and released.  Unfortunately, an arrest record, called a voided arrest, is created that can unfairly prejudice opportunities for schooling, employment, professional licenses and housing.  These are individuals that are completely innocent but never had their arrest record rightfully expunged.  In New York alone, there were over 4,000 innocent people arrested and released last year whose records were never expunged – including some Members of Congress who are now cosponsoring the legislation.

Joining Rep. Nadler were members of law enforcement, including Sergeant Adrian Garcia of the Latino Officers Association and Lieutenant Eric Adams of the New York Police Department.  He was also joined by Lieutenant Manuel Gomez of the US Marshall’s Service, whose entry into the NYPD was blocked because of this bureaucratic snafu, and whose story served as inspiration for the “Clear Your Good Name Act.”

The bill defines a “voided arrest” as any arrest resulting in the release of the person without the filing of formal charges, dismissal of proceedings against the person arrested, or a determination that the arrest was without probable cause.  The bill would require expungement of certain federal arrest records and would provide a financial incentive to states to provide for expungement of certain state records.  Some states currently have laws on the books to expunge voided arrest records, and we want to encourage other states to follow their lead.  States with expungement statutes would be eligible to receive increased crime control funding from this legislation.

“When individuals are mistakenly arrested and then released after it is determined that they are innocent, they shouldn’t have to carry the burden of the false arrest with them for the rest of their lives.  And yet, this happens all the time without a second thought,” said Rep. Nadler.  “My bill will correct that by removing this undeserved blight from the records of innocent people.”

The personal story of Lt. Manuel Gomez is one that has been chronicled in such places as the New York Times.  Lt. Gomez was in the midst of training in the Police Academy, with the hope of joining the NYPD, when he was abruptly told to resign from the Academy.  Officials told him that he had lied on his application about not having been arrested.  Lt. Gomez soon found out that the Academy was citing an arrest due to mistaken identity, and a summons for driving without a license, both of which he was told at the time were voided.  Lt. Gomez was forced to leave the academy, and took up the cause of getting a law written so that those in his situation would not face what he did.

“When Lt. Gomez told me his story and told me just how many people are victims of bad record-keeping, I was astounded,” said Rep. Nadler.  “Writing this legislation and working for its passage will literally help thousands of perfectly innocent people.  It’s a matter of fairness and common sense.”

Rep. Nadler has served in Congress since 1992.  He represents the 8th Congressional District of New York, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.