Rev. Dr. C. Dennis Williams
Attorney Shahiedah Coates
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Sentinel Religion Editor
The Brookins Legal Clinic will hold a free workshop on criminal expungements to aid people in removing old or erroneous information from personal records.
The session is set for Saturday, May 5, at 2 p.m., at Brookins Community A.M.E. Church, 4831 South Gramercy Place in Los Angeles. The Rev. Dr. C. Dennis Williams is host pastor.
The Sentinel spoke with Attorney Shahiedah Coates, Brookins Legal Clinic chair, to learn more about expungements.
LAS: Why is Brookins Legal Clinic providing this service for free?
SC: Brookins A.M.E. is rooted in addressing the needs of the community and quality legal representation is a very important service. Recently, announcements were made that court services will be significantly reduced, delaying justice, as a result of decreasing court budgets. Legal clinics like ours are needed to fill the gap and ensure that the rights of our friends, family, and neighbors are protected.
LAS: What’s the most requested information people may wish to expunge?
SC: While every individual has a unique circumstance, we expect two general categories of charges: juvenile and adult. Juvenile records may be sealed and charges incurred as an adult may be expunged. If a person is currently on probation, that is a priority and should be resolved before requesting expungement of any other charges. Beyond that, the law specifies certain types of charges that are ineligible for expungement. It’s best to consult with an attorney to find out if you qualify.
LAS: How can this information hurt you if it’s old or false?
SC: Many times in life, we are asked if we’ve been convicted of a crime: on a job application, scholarship application, school enrollment, for example. If a person answers, “Yes,” they find it more difficult to get the job, enrollment or scholarship. If they answer, “No,” and an erroneous charge shows up on a background check, they are flagged as dishonest. In today’s competitive market, an employer will rarely ask whether the results of a background check are accurate and give an applicant a chance to dispute it. Any charge that is expunged is essentially dismissed, so it does not need to be disclosed on an application as a conviction.
LAS: What are some other services the Legal Clinic offers?
SC: We will provide a strong cadre of attorneys in many areas including family law, criminal defense, and business law. At this clinic, experts in criminal record expungements, Merissa Grayson, Esq., and a paralegal with the LAW Project of Los Angeles will join us.
To RSVP for the workshop or obtain more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.