Online Tool Helps Wisconsinites Find And Remove Issues On Their Legal Records
Having a record of legal issues can cause a lot of problems. Even if a claim was never prosecuted, it can hang onto your record for years, causing issues with finding employment or housing. A new program in Wisconsin is helping people remove these records through a simple search — all you need to start is your name and birthdate.
Marsha Mansfield is the director of the Economic Justice Institute at UW-Madison Law School and the director of Legal Interventions for Transforming (LIFT) Dane, which recently launched its Legal Tuneup Tool.
Mansfield says it isn’t always intuitive what is going to show up on your legal record. “Often times people don’t realize that they might have been arrested for something but never charged and it shows up when a landlord or an employer goes to pull up their record,” she explains.
According to Mansfield, there are a number of common issues that can get placed on a legal record and are what the Legal Tuneup Tool is meant to help address. “People whose driver’s license are suspended, people who have criminal records that are impacting their ability to get jobs or housing and also people who are struggling to meet their child support obligations,” she says. “We decided to create a tool that would easily allow people to access the information they need to address those issues.”
From there, Mansfield says getting the issue removed from a legal record depends on where the case is located. For cases within a circuit court, the tool can autofill a form that is sent to the clerk of courts to review and confirm whether the issue can be removed. If a case is within the Department of Justice database, the site can autofill the form but a fingerprint needs to be added to the form before it is sent in.
“We’re working with a variety of agencies around the state so that the form can be automatically [emailed] to an agency. So, an example in Dane County where I live, people have the choice of the form being sent to the Urban League or the Legal Action of Wisconsin where it’s printed out, the people there are trained in fingerprinting, so an individual can go in, easily get fingerprinted and then the form is sent to the Department of Justice,” she explains.
For Mansfield, she hopes that the Legal Tuneup Tool will help show policymakers the benefits of helping people remove issues from their legal record and encourage them to make the process easier so that the tool doesn’t need to exist.
“Once the people who are the policymakers see the difference economically and also health-wise, because legal problems cause emotional and physical problems, that laws will be changed so that people don’t have to go through this process and things can be automatically cleared,” she says.