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Alcohol convictions may not be fully erased

BY MICHAEL ARRIOLA | FEBRUARY 10, 2010 7:30 AM

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It may be erased, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone.

A bill passed by the Iowa House and now working its way through the Senate would, if passed, let Iowans petition to have a drinking offense expunged from their records. But area officials say just because it’s not officially on record doesn’t mean it won’t ever come up again.

Students interested in law or medical school, for example, will likely have to reveal any underage drinking tickets, regardless of whether they’ve been expunged.

“The hype may be a bit overblown,” said Collins Byrd, an assistant dean of admissions for the UI College of Law.

Admissions officials at both the UI and Drake University — the only other institution in Iowa with a law school — say their applications ask prospective students to disclose any information regarding criminal convictions, specifically noting expungement.

But this doesn’t stop UI junior Vince Geis — who has a PAULA conviction and plans to apply to the UI and other law schools — from wanting to expunge his transgression.

It may not help for the UI application, he said, “but I will probably still have it removed because other schools may not be as specific with their wording when it comes to expungement.”

Requesting information about expunged convictions is popular on law-school applications throughout the nation, Byrd said, and it’s “very important” to be forthcoming about convictions. If a board of examiners were to find out an applicant lied on her or his law-school application, it would question the person’s integrity.

Medical-school applicants, meanwhile, must be just as honest, said Kathlene Huebner, the director of admissions for the Carver College of Medicine. Though paperwork doesn’t mention expungement, it does ask about ever having any criminal conviction history.

And professional-school prospects may not be the only group this affects.

Many companies hire third-party agencies to complete background checks, said Ross Loder, a legislative liaison for the state Department of Public Safety.

The businesses may even have databanks of criminal records that, for example, captured a PAULA conviction when it was formerly public record and held it for future reference.

“It is unfortunate that after people go through all of the work it takes to get a conviction expunged off of their record, it is still possible their name can be found,” Loder said.

UI Student Government President Michael Currie still sees the value in the bill.

“The bill won’t hurt and can only give you an advantage,” he said.

Regardless of an application’s wording or a company’s background check, Greg Bal, supervising attorney for Student Legal Services, had some straightforward advice.

“If they ask you specifically, you better tell them,” he said.


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