What is An Interest of Justice Record Sealing Case in DC?

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding interest of justice record sealing motions. For more information on sealing or expunging your record in the District of Columbia, contact a DC record sealing lawyer today for a free consultation.

What Is an Interest of Justice Record Sealing Motion?

An interest of justice record sealing motion is filed under DC Code 16-803. A person who is arrested, charged with a crime, or convicted of certain crimes may file a motion to seal their records on the basis that is in the interest of justice to block public access to the case records.

Now, interest of justice is not particularly well-defined. There are certain factors that the judge will look at to decide if it’s fair and they are basically what these motions are about. Is it fair for this movant to have their criminal record hold them back anymore or is it fair for the public to no longer know that this person has a criminal history? It’s a balancing test.

When we’re creating one of these motions, a big consideration for the Court is what has this person been doing since they were arrested or convicted? Have they continued the life of crime, have they gotten employment, have they started a family? There’s a variety of types of evidence that would prove that somebody really deserves to no longer be held back by criminal record.

Conversely, judges are going to want to know is this record really affecting this person in a negative way or are they just filing this because they think it would be nice to have a clean record. Are they actually facing some hardships or adversity because of their criminal record?

The judge is also going to ask shouldn’t employers get to know that when choosing between two candidates for a position that one of them has been convicted of theft, for example, in the past. That’s a red flag for employers and they have a valid interest in knowing that. So, a person really needs to show that they are reformed, they have moved on and they have been doing good things and the employer shouldn’t have to be worried about that anymore. Movants need to prove that to the judge.

What Evidence and Arguments Are Used In an Interest of Justice Case?

There will be both legal arguments and fact-based arguments. The legal arguments really have to do with why this person is eligible to seal their record, perhaps why a person who has a limited criminal record legally deserves to have their record sealed. Attorneys often analogize to prior cases where courts have held that people with similar records should be treated in a certain way.

But mostly, it’s a factual argument. If somebody comes in and, for example, she got arrested ten years ago for a drug offense, but now she’s a mother of three who’s married, raising her family, and working full-time, that person is not necessarily the same person anymore. And, you now, there are a lot of arguments to be made for why it’s unfair for that person to be held back by their criminal record after such a reversal.

Many fact-based arguments are related to employment or education or community service volunteering. Judges want to know the person is active in the community in a positive way. There are also arguments about why, if, for example, a person was arrested one time and the charges were dismissed, that arrest really has no bearing on an employer’s decision to hire or promote that person. Perhaps that person was wrongfully arrested to begin with.

But really, these are just very fact specific motions and the evidence is going to vary from client to client.