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My Turn: Social justice reform for whom?

For the Monitor
Published: 3/13/2019 12:10:04 AM

This session of the New Hampshire Legislature has seen a number of proposed bills that the ACLU and others say advance “social justice.” Unfortunately it is not clear who will see justice from these proposals. Innocent victims and public safety are not protected by these bills.

Bail reform: Last year’s ACLU-supported bill has resulted in an increase in dangerous defendants released, more court hearings and defendants failing to appear in courts, costing police time and taxpayers money. They support Senate Bill 314, which does nothing to address these problems. The minor fix for “failure to appear” they offered in SB 314 does nothing for the over 30 percent of circuit court cases that are “failure to appear.” When a defendant fails to appear, victims will not see justice.

Abandoned property: SB 262 is designed to stop police from collecting evidence like that which has been used to solve many cold cases. It is so poorly worded it will make it a misdemeanor for a police officer to try to identify the owner of lost property, such as a wallet, and for a police department to retain that information in their files.

Exculpatory evidence schedule and police: Committing a misdemeanor such as created by SB 262 (even without a conviction) would place officers on a public exculpatory evidence schedule with the officer’s personnel file and the contents of personal information of them and their family public under House Bill 155.

Annulments: New Hampshire already has one of the easiest processes of any state to get a crime removed from the records through an annulment, a process made easier last year with the bail reform bill. After an annulment, the record does not exist for consideration of future crimes, employment or sentencing. SB 311 makes it so restitution does not have to be paid to victims. It wipes out misdemeanor convictions as soon as the sentence is done. There will not be any subsequent convictions for DUI or stalking under this bill because the first-time misdemeanor offenses will be stricken from the record. Felony-level drug cases, a prohibition for firearm possession, will likewise disappear after the sentence is completed.

Victims, including small businesses, public safety and the police, will not see “social justice” from such radical proposals. Contact your senators and representatives. Tell them to oppose SB 314, SB 262, HB 155 and SB 311.

Innocent victims and public safety deserve as much or more consideration as the ACLU and others are giving defendants.

(Andrew Shagoury is chief of police in Tuftonboro.)

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