Alaska: legislature approves bill to require courts remove criminal cases from website within 60 days of charges being dismissed or person being acquitted; similar bill vetoed in 2014

In 2014 Alaska’s governor vetoed a bill (SB 108 of 2014) that would have required the state’s courts remove from its public online system within 120 days criminal cases in which a person was found not guilty or had the charges dismissed. A modified version of the bill (HB 11 of 2015/2016) is now heading back to the governor’s desk.

Under the new bill as approved by the legislature this week the Alaska Court System would have 60 days to remove the criminal case information from their publicly available website if one of three conditions are met

  1. the defendant was acquitted of all charges filed in the case;
  2. all criminal charges against the defendant in the case have been dismissed and were not dismissed as part of a plea agreement in another criminal case under Rule 11, Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure; or
  3. the defendant was acquitted of some of the criminal charges in the case and the remaining charges were dismissed.

Hard copies of the case documents would remain in the various courthouses in the state

According to news reports the bill was opposed by the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, who indicated “while we feel this bill was well intentioned, we are unable to lend our support to it. We do not feel that it serves the interests of public safety because infringes on the public’s right to know.”

As noted in 2014 then-Governor Sean Parnell vetoed a similar bill as “too blunt and sweeping” and too infringing on the public’s right to know and have access to court records. It remains to be seen if current Governor Bill Walker will also opt to veto the bill.