New Mexico has some of the nation's toughest expungement laws. It can actually take years to have your record expunged. Even if you never committed the crimes on your record.
Mark Medley, a New Mexican resident was a victim of identity theft in 2001. A violent criminal stole his wallet and used his identity once he was caught. That identity was used by the police and prosecutors when they charged the individual. "When you're accused of a crime that you didn't commit and you can't get it quickly clear up, you're angry, you're frustrated, you're depressed," he said, reflecting on the struggle he went through to expunge his identity theft related criminal record. "He had memorized the information my wallet. They took his word for it, 'Oh, Ok, your name is Mark Medley? Ok that's what we'll put in the computer.'"
The battle for Medley took seven years before he was able to expunge the charges from his record. A similar thing recently happened to Joseph Silva, a city employee that was sent a summons to appear in court on panhandling charges. Albuquerque police charged a man with a panhandling offense, that man gave Silva's name and birthdate, and the police officer took it as the truth and sent the paperwork to the court. Silva is only starting his journey through the expungement process. Medley is hoping he can help.
Due to the trouble Medley went through, he is now a consultant to victims of identity theft, working for his own non-profit agency. Many of his clients are charged with crimes they never committed, falling victim to criminals who use their identity, much like what happened to Medley and Silva. In fact, Medley estimates between 20 to 30 people need his services every year. However, they won't be getting any help from the state government. "The state of New Mexico has a records expungement act, but it's outdated," Medley says.
The current law in New Mexico related to expunging records makes no special provisions to give expedited assistance to victims of identity theft. Judges have no power to expunge individual criminal record, and the current expungement act is far too strict in Medley's opinion. "The number one thing that bewildered me was the fact of how difficult it was to get my record cleared of his crimes," he said. Furthermore, efforts to change the law have consistently been vetoed by New Mexico's legislature.
Let your county and city agencies know what you think. Don't forget to get involved in judicial elections and check out JudgeYourJudge.com to see if your local judges are up for re-election. Your state legislator – both your State Representative and your State Senator – are the most important people to hear from you, since they make the laws. The Governor's Office should also know your position since that's where the final decision will be made. Finally, make sure both your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator know what is going on back home. The more people who hear how you feel, the more likely something will get done.