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Bill could make PAULAs vanish

BY MORGAN OLSEN | JANUARY 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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UI students soon might not have to fear future employers digging into their college pasts and finding evidence of underage boozing.

A recently proposed bill would eventually expunge any alcohol-related offense from an underage person’s record. If the bill went into effect, underage people could petition to the court to expunge drinking violations from their records two years after they were cited as long as they have maintained clean records otherwise.

In the early stages of the House Study Bill 553, local officials said they’re supportive of the idea.

“I’m totally in favor of this, and I’m glad they’re doing it,” said Iowa City Councilor Connie Champion. “In my opinion, it’s just getting with the times.”

With 819 PAULAS written by Iowa City Police in 2009, the bill could have a positive effect on UI students.

“There are so many young people who have this on their record for just being at a keg or being handed a drink at a bar,” said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, who is also a member of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee. “We want to help people be more successful in their futures.”

Currently under Iowa law, minors under the age of 18 can petition to have their juvenile records sealed. The new bill would apply to underage adults between 18 and 20 years old.

The subcommittee has also added an amendment to the bill that would remove records through the Department of Public Safety. The amendment is in place to keep expunged criminal records from being found, said Rep. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, also a member of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee.

While serious consideration is occurring at the state-level, UI students said they’re happy about the possibility.

“I think people can change a lot from the time they’re underage to when they’re an adult,” Foster said. “It would be fair to have a petition so it wouldn’t affect people so much.”

However, some students and state officials remain skeptical.

“I think people would definitely take underage drinking less seriously,” said UI junior Flory Gessner. “I don’t think people take PAULAs seriously anyway.”

Schultz agreed that some concerns have been raised about people abusing the system, he said.

Despite his uncertainty whether the committee will consider the bill, he said he believes it’s an opportunity to clean up records that otherwise would be tarnished.

“Keeping these offenses on record has no real gain for society,” he said.


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