Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Help Me Howard: Clear my Name
One South Florida teenager is in a tough spot. He got arrested, the charges were dropped, but now he's got a record that'll follow him forever unless he can clear his name. Let's turn to two names you know, Help me Howard and Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Frantz Mersier is your normal 18-year-old.
Frantz Mersier: "I'm just a regular student."
When he started in college he wanted to go into the music business, but, like many students, he isn't sure.
Frantz Mersier: "I was thinking about changing it to correctional officer but might not happen."
Might not happen because of an incident he had earlier this year.
Frantz Mersier: "Well, I recently got wrongfully arrested for something I did not do."
It happened in this parking lot when Frantz's friend went into the bank, he waited for him outside.
Frantz Mersier: "I was sitting on my friend's car."
According to this police report, a bank employee claims a black male, who looked like Frantz, opened a car's door and ransacked the console area.
Frantz Mersier: "I was thinking, 'What is she talking about?' and if I was ransacking the car, I'm pretty sure the inside would look very messy."
Backing Frantz's version, the report states the owner said nothing appeared to be missing and the detective determined there was no scene to process, but since the bank employee pointed the finger at Frantz, he was handcuffed and hauled off to jail.
Frantz Mersier: "The whole time, I was thinking, how could this happen, I didn't do anything wrong. How could they just arrest me? I've never been arrested, never had any problems with the police at all."
Now he has a mug shot, his fingerprints are on file and both will be in the system forever, but when he got to court, he finally got some good news.
Frantz Mersier: "As soon as they called my name, they said, 'charges dropped.'"
The State Attorney dropped the charges because the victim and the witness didn't bother to come to court, but Frantz is smart enough to know his problems are not going away.
Frantz Mersier: "If I decide I want to switch jobs now, it is going to be hard for me to get a job, and it also looks bad on my record that I've been in jail."
Howard says Frantz is right to worry because an arrest can cause you incredible problems.
Howard Finkelstein: "An arrest on your record can alter your life. Everything is on-line these days, and some people won't hire someone who has been arrested. It can also ruin your reputation or hold you up to ridicule."
And those words from Howard make Frantz realize he has to do something to clear his name.
Frantz Mersier: "The whole thing will always follow me. It seems like it will follow me for the rest of my life."
Good news for Frantz since he had a spotless record till this happened, Howard says he can technically get the arrest wiped off his record.
Howard Finkelstein: "This is what I call 'one bite of the apple.' If you have never been arrested before, and your case is dismissed, like in Frantz's case, or the court withholds adjudication of guilt, you can have your record sealed from most employers, but if you apply for certain jobs, like law enforcement or to work with children, they have a right to open the file. Even though, I don't think an arrest like this will hurt someone like Frantz."
Fortunately, this month, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office is offering a one-step program for $75 to have your record sealed or expunged, and if you don't qualify for that, the ACLU will be there to help you get your civil rights restored. Frantz will get that done, but what he still wants is to know, why a bank employee would put him through so much.
Frantz Mersier: "I never really understood why someone would go and say that I was breaking into a car, when I was not breaking into the car."
As police will tell you, Frantz, eyewitness IDs are nowhere near foolproof. By the way, when we say seal the record, that's what they do, put a piece of tape over the file, and it's stored in the clerk's office. Why don't they destroy it? Well, let's says you were accused of molesting a child, but the case was thrown out, a school would want to know that before hiring you, so they keep the sealed files around.
Arresting developments incarcerating you? Wanna set yourself free? Contact us, and we will seal the deal.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Miami-Dade State Attorney
Sealing and Expungement Program
Monday, April 27th, 2009
Victor Wilde Community Center
1701 West 53rd Terrace
Hialeah, FL 33012
Note: Only cases charged in Miami-Dade County can be addressed at this event.
FDLE Seal and Expunge Process