Back To Alabama Legal News
Sorry my last three posts were not really on topic. I’ll stay on course today, starting with this post.
But first, I have to comment on last weekend’s Oklahoma/Oregon game. For the one person who may not know (the story has even made it to NPR), Oklahoma was up by 13 with about two minutes left. Oregon scored with a minute to go, leaving them down by six. They successfully recovered an onside kick, marched down the field, and scored a touchdown to take the lead by one. But there was still time left. Oklahoma took the ensuing kickoff to something like Oregon’s twenty-five yard line. They lined up for the winning field goal, but Oregon blocked it. Game over, Ducks win.
Except that the onside kick clearly – I mean, no doubt about it, everyone is in agreement – did not go ten yards before Oregon recovered it. (There is also a dispute over whether or not they recovered it at all). That means Oklahoma should have gotten the ball. Which means Oregon would not have scored, and so the Sooners would have won.
All I want to say is that I am sick of hearing the Oklahoma folks whine about how the officials stole the game from the Sooners. It was an aweful call, and if it had been made correctly, Oklahoma would have won. But the bad call did not of itself cause the loss. Oregon only got to make the kick because Oklahoma just gave up a thirty yard touchdown scramble to the Duck’s qb. Even after the kick, Oregon still had to go fifty yards in less than a minute to score a touchdown. Oklahoma’s defense – not the officials – allowed that to happen. Yet Oklahoma still could have won the game, but they botched the field goal. Bottom line, imho, is that Oklahoma allowed Oregon to be in position for the bad call, and after the call, a championship team would have preserved the win. They would have stopped Oregon, or made the field goal. Oklahoma did neither. They did not deserve to win.
Now, on to the legal stuff. This was in the paper on Sunday:
The Alabama Bureau of Investigation routinely investigates cases when a law enforcement officer shoots someone.
There may have a legitimate reason to close those records to the general public while the investigation is going on. But it’s hard to understand why they should remain closed after an officer is exonerated.
Yet that’s the case. A grand jury can see the ABI report. The local law enforcement agency that employs the officer in question can see it. But the public has no right to look at the document without a court order, according to the ABI.
That bothers me. Cops are public officials, and so in my view everything related to their employment and job performance ought to be open to public inspection. We are, after all, their employers.
But what I really want to point out is the difference between this result – the records of investigations of possible wrongdoing by copsare not public – and the result when a regular citizen gets arrested. In that case, the record is public, no matter the ultimate outcome. Acquitted, charges dismissed, nolle prossed: It does not matter, the record is there for anyone to see. That creates all kinds of problems. The individual is going to have a harder time finding a job, getting into a school, obtaining a professional license, and doing just about anything that involves a background check. These results are justifiable when the arrest results in a conviction, but they are very harsh when there was no conviction.
What makes it even worse is that Alabama does not have a procedure for expunging records. Some, maybe most, states have specificprocedures for sealing records of an arrest when the arrest did not result in a conviction. Not Alabama. Some judges will do it, others won’t and in all cases, the DA’s approval is pretty much mandatory. In JeffCo, at least, that approval is very hard to obtain. The result is that once you have a record of an arrest in Alabama, you will always have a record of an arrest in Alabama regardless of whether or not you were ever convicted of a crime.