Capital Notebook

CAPITAL NOTEBOOK

March 07, 2007

Bill would expunge some arrest records

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill yesterday that would automatically expunge arrest records in cases in which criminal charges were not brought.

Del. Keith E. Haynes, a Baltimore Democrat, introduced the bill to address what some community activists have called an overly aggressive crime-fighting campaign in the city that resulted in arrests for minor offenses that were not prosecuted. About 21,000 people were arrested and released without charge in the state last year, according to the Maryland Criminal Justice Information System.

"They were being picked up, arrested, processed, sent to booking and then released without being charged," Haynes said. "They now have an arrest record, and it affects their ability to find employment and housing. It affects their ability to apply for a mortgage."

In general, under current law, people must apply for expungement and sign a waiver of legal claims against the arresting agency. The bill, which has not been heard in the Senate, would require law enforcement agencies to expunge records within 30 days of releasing individuals who have not been charged. The bill passed, 130-9.

Republican Del. Anthony O'Donnell, the House minority whip, said he voted against the bill because it would expunge legitimate drug-related arrests that were not prosecuted. "We have a very violent city born out of the illegal drug trade, and we just created a process that potentially enables that and masks the fact that there has been a failure to stop that," O'Donnell said.

Laura Smitherman

Lape to direct bay cleanup

Jeffrey L. Lape, a 16-year veteran with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been named director of the Chesapeake Bay Program in Annapolis.

Lape, who lives in Chevy Chase, will oversee the federal and multistate partnership that has been trying to clean up the nation's largest estuary. The 23-year-old cleanup program includes scientists from the EPA, U.S. Geological Survey and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who help set standards for bay cleanup goals.

He replaces Rebecca Hanmer, who is retiring. She has held the job since 2002.

Lape, who has a master's degree in environmental science and engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, works in the agency's Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center in Washington.

Lape said yesterday that he expects his diplomacy skills to come in handy as he works with the state, federal and local entities that are integral to bay cleanup.

"Given the sheer complexity, it will take creative thinking and people committing to things they have to work hard to get to," Lape said. "I'm going to be listening really carefully."

Rona Kobell

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