DC attorney general to help seal records for protesters arrested but not charged

In June 2020, when protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody filled the streets of D.C., more than 200 people were arrested for violating Mayor Muriel Bowser’s curfew.

The D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced earlier this year that his office would not prosecute many of those cases, and now he’s taking it a step further to help many of those not charged have their arrest records sealed.

Racine’s office said letters will be sent out to 220 people arrested for violating a city curfew in early June. If the person replies to the letter, the attorney general’s office will file a motion to a judge on the person’s behalf to have the individual’s record sealed.

According to Racine’s office, normally a person trying to do the same would have to hire an attorney and wait two years to ask a judge to make the move.

“We declined to prosecute the vast majority of protesters who were arrested in early June 2020 for violating the Mayor’s curfew order while peacefully protesting in the District,” said OAG spokesperson Abbie McDonough.

McDonough said the decision comes after prosecutors looked at the evidence and circumstances of each case.

“OAG is also proactively offering to file motions on behalf of eligible individuals and ask a judge to seal their arrest records to help make the process easier for those individuals and reduce hurdles to have their arrest records sealed,” she said.

In offering the in-court help to those affected, the OAG did end the letter sent to those individuals with a warning.

“Please note that should you be rearrested for this offense — or any other offense — OAG may
decide to prosecute you for that offense and/or oppose the sealing of your arrest,” the letter read.

Racine’s office said it has only formally charged five people for violating curfew. Another 80 people are not eligible to have their records sealed due to current law. In some cases, that means a disqualifying arrest or conviction would make someone not eligible to have the case sealed.

Racine’s office said he has testified to eliminate automatic disqualifiers for records that would otherwise be eligible for getting sealed and expunged.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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