Statehouse Headliners

Statehouse Headliners 6/26

Hiring drug/alcohol-free drivers gets harder with passage of Act 32, “expungement” law

By Guy Page

It makes you wonder – did the employer of the pickup truck driver who killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire last weekend know about his history of drug and alcohol abuse? And that question makes you wonder some more – now that drug possession and some DUI charges can be expunged from Vermont criminal records, how can Vermont employers avoid hiring people with these prior criminal records?

The short answer is – they can’t. H460, enacted into law this year as Act 32, allows Vermonters convicted of most drug possession and some DUI crimes to ask the court to “expunge” their records. If the court grants the petition, for all employment and legal purposes the crime never happened. H460 supporters say that’s the point: employers and landlords are unfairly punishing people who committed these crimes by refusing them jobs and housing. H460 sets things right for both the offenders and an economy that needs workers, they say.

Yet employers’ and landlords’ concerns were scarcely mentioned in documents and testimony submitted to the House Judiciary Committee before it approved H460. In fact there is no direct testimony from anyone representing employers or landlords. Only in a couple of pro-expungement academic studies are these issues even raised. The allegedly low recidivism rate of criminals with expunged records, says a 2019 University of Michigan study, “defuses the most common policy argument against expungement laws: that the public (including employers and landlords) has a safety interest in knowing about the prior records of those with whom they interact.”

In other words – employers need not be concerned that a new van driver may have a DUI or a drug possession conviction. Not to worry! Academic research shows they have no “safety interest in knowing” – however loudly their common sense may shout otherwise.

Vermont Judiciary estimates expungement will cost $269,000 this year and $348,000 in 2020 in state revenue. If just 1-3% of the estimated 41,776 convictions are subject to expungement petitions, the State of Vermont will need to hire at least five temporary workers to handle the backlog. Supporters say the hoped-for economic payback of more working, productive Vermonters will more than compensate for the spending.

But that’s a “big picture” solution to the perceived problem that criminals are victims of societal oppression. Meanwhile….what about the employer whose livelihood and peace of mind would be destroyed if the next multiple fatal accident is caused by one of his drivers? What about the landlady who discovers drug deals are happening on her premises?

Don’t they and the other people in and around their vehicles, workplaces and apartment buildings deserve protection, too?

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published by Guy Page, Page Communications
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2 Replies to “Statehouse Headliners 6/26

  1. You need to go back and read Act 32 in its entirety. “This section shall not apply to an individual licensed as a
    commercial driver pursuant to 23 V.S.A. chapter 39 seeking to seal or expunge a record of a conviction for a
    felony offense committed in a motor vehicle as defined in 23 V.S.A. § 4.” and “at least 10 years have elapsed since the date on which the person successfully completed the terms and conditions of the sentence for the conviction, or if the person has successfully completed the terms and conditions of an indeterminate term of probation that commenced at least 10 years previously.” People who have kept their nose clean for 10 years deserve a second chance. The moron that killed 7 people and wasn’t even detained for alcohol or drug testing by the incompetent police would not qualify.

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