CaseNet is Missouri’s online database which allows the general public to search most court records, from docket entries to judgments to charges filed in courts utilizing the Missouri Court Automation Program’s case management software.
DeGroot’s legislation, filed Wednesday, would block nonviolent misdemeanor and traffic offenses from being publicly available. Instead, that information could only be accessed by law enforcement agencies, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, court personnel, and others a court would deem necessary.
In a bill filed last year, DeGroot sought to remove misdemeanor cases from the automated case management system after five years. But after learning software programs could “scrape” CaseNet — making that information available even after the five-year limit — DeGroot made changes.
“The purpose of this bill is to deny access to records for things like speeding tickets and minor in possession charges to future employers, future landlords, and nosy friends and neighbors,” DeGroot told The Missouri Times. “But people who have a legitimate interest in knowing about prior charges will still have access.”
The Republican lawyer previously told The Missouri Times he has had clients who made “a youthful indiscretion” that impacted their lives dozens of years later because of CaseNet.
DeGroot also championed legislation last year — ultimately signed into law — that stripped the punishment of more prison time for someone who cannot afford the initial fines, which often created an unbreakable cycle. But he said while he is “extremely proud” of that bill, this year’s CaseNet legislation has the potential to impact every Missourian.
“We all have relatives who have gotten speeding tickets, etc., and some of us have received them ourselves. We all have a vested interest in maintaining privacy for these types of minor offenses,” DeGroot said. “All this bill does is remove the ease of finding this information for people without legitimate interest.”
Last year’s HB 1221 stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.