Students convicted of criminal offenses may have the opportunity to make their criminal record disappear.
A workshop Monday sponsored by Florida A&M students in the department of Sociology and Criminal Justice informed members of the community how to expunge their criminal records. Entering the Perry-Paige auditorium, audience members were handed an application to begin the process of how to clear their record.
More than 200 people from the department and the surrounding community filled the auditorium to gain knowledge from law enforcement and criminal law experts.
The workshop explained that if a student can get his/her criminal record expunged, their record is sealed from the public and they are able to maintain their civil rights, such as voting and applying for a job.
Florida A&M University’s police department reports stated that 77 arrests were made on campus last year, and since the beginning of 2008, 11 arrests have been made.
The leading types of arrests were violation of probation and driving with a suspended license. Lt. Norman Rollins, patrol commander for the Department of Public Safety, said this delinquent behavior is common for the offenders.
“Whatever they’re used to doing at home, they bring it here,” Rollins said.
Craig J. Brown, criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Craig Brown, P.A. in Tallahassee, lectured on how to get records expunged.
A private practice such as Brown’s, charges $700 to complete the process, but it was also explained that individuals could handle the procedure themselves for a small fee. According to www.sealyourrecord.com, you can get your own self-help seal and expunge kit for $200.
Brown clarified that if you have a juvenile record, it does not disappear when you become 18.
“Your juvenile record will follow you,” Brown said.
Also, Brown explained if someone is arrested outside of Leon County, but live in Leon County, paperwork must be filed in the county you were arrested in.
“Only that county can expunge you,” Brown said.
Another panel member, Diane William-Cox, board member of District 2 public schools in Leon County, urged people to know the power of their civil rights so they can get a good job and be able to vote.
“Don’t be one of the statistics,” William-Cox said. “Handle your business.”
After your record is expunged, you must wait ten years before you can get your record expunged a second time.
Certain offenses such as aggravated assault and robbery felonies can’t be erased. But smaller charges, such as misdemeanors can be expunged.
Brown said that certain times of the year trigger an influx of arrests.
“Big events such as homecoming week cause a large amount of criminal charges,” Brown said. “College students during this time should take precaution to avoid charges.”
Brown also said many of his student clients have to get their parents to pay for their lawyer fees.
After listening to the panel members, the audience was able to ask questions and make comments. Stephen Brisbois, a convicted felon, traveled from Suwannee County in Live Oak to attend the workshop and tell his personal experience as a lesson to all.
“I think that this workshop will help those who haven’t gotten in trouble yet or those who still have a chance to participate in this program,” Brisbois said.
Students who attended the workshop gave positive feedback.
Errol Williams, 22, a fourth-year civil engineering and technology student from Dallas, said there the workshop is a great idea.
“It benefited the community because a lot of people have charges and need to find jobs,” Williams said. “They need to have more.”
Students outside of the department also got involved.
Tricia Vickers, 22, a second-year architecture student from Miami, said people who came to the event would disseminate information to others who may need it.
“I think it helps my awareness about the process and how I can help others learn about it as well,” Vickers said. “The people who came here are going to tell somebody else and they’re going to tell somebody else.”
The outcome was pleasing to the professor who coordinated the workshop. Monekka Munroe-Cooper, adjunct professor in the department, said this was a great opportunity for the students to reach out to the community.
“As experts in the field, we have the knowledge to give to the people,” Munroe-Cooper said. “We shouldn’t have to wait for them to come to us. We should go to them.