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When Information about a Sealed Conviction Can Be Requested in Nevada

Baliotis v. Clark County
Supreme Court of Nevada
December 15, 1986

Holding: A defendant has the right to inform an employer that he has not been arrested or convicted of a crime if his criminal records are sealed pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes § 179.245. However, an employer, county or agency has the right to demand information of a sealed conviction where the employer, county or agency has independent knowledge of the former conviction.

Why This Case is Important: Pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes § 179.245, a defendant can petition to have his criminal records sealed. Once sealed, a defendant’s abilities to obtain gainful employment greatly increase. Such an increase in professional potential is due to the purpose of the sealing statute.

The purpose of section 179.245 is to remove the handicaps placed on an ex-convict. As stated in this case, it is meant to allow the former defendant to confidently claim that he has not been arrested or convicted of a crime. This greatly benefits a defendant who seeks to move forward professionally, allowing him to develop without the stigma of a criminal record hanging over his head.

However, as this case points out, while sealing a criminal record gives the defendant the right to withhold any information about a prior conviction, it does not erase the fact that it happened. This is relevant where an employer, county or agency has independent knowledge of the defendant’s prior convictions. Where an employer, agency, or county has independent knowledge, then it will not violate a defendant’s rights when a demand is made for information of of the defendant’s prior conviction in order to assess whether he is fit for the job.

It is important to note that although information of the conviction may be demanded, the defendant still has the right to refuse to provide the requested information. However, where there is independent knowledge, and the conviction is relevant to determining fitness for a license or employment, then the defendant who refuses to furnish such information runs the risk of having their employment or license denied.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case petitioned and was granted sealing of his felony conviction pursuant to NRS § 179.245. The defendant subsequently applied to Clark County for a private detective’s license. The county referred the application to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department for a character assessment, and an unfavorable recommendation was made based on the fact the defendant refused to furnish information on the sealed convictions. The police department argued that it had independent knowledge of the felony convictions, and that the requested information was necessary to determine the applicant’s fitness for the license.

The defendant refused to provide the requested information, and argued that it was improper for the police department to request information on the records that were sealed. The district court however, sided with the metro police department, concluding that it was proper to make such a request.

The Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed the decision of the district court to grant summary judgment for the police department. The Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed that the main purpose of the sealing statute was to allow former convicts the opportunity to move forward in their professional careers. Indeed, the Court stated that the license sought by the defendant could be issued to former felons whose records have been sealed. However, the Nevada Supreme Court stated that the sealing statute does not force a licensing authority to disregard independent knowledge of criminal behavior in determining whether the applicant is fit for the license.

The Nevada Supreme Court thereby affirmed the district court’s decision to grant the police department’s motion for summary judgment.

Key Language: It is one thing to recognize and give effect to the benefits that inhere in the sealing statute; it is quite another to suppose that the statute can force licensing authorities to simply disregard independent knowledge of criminal behavior.

Expert Advise: “Sealing a criminal record provides a former offender with great advantages. It allows a person to move forward in their life and develop professionally. The exception in this case is narrow, and the court makes it clear that even though the information may be demanded, the former convict still has the right to refuse to furnish the information.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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