In signing a bill that makes it easier for juveniles with certain low-level offenses to expunge their records, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper chose to complete the task at a Colorado Springs nonprofit that focuses on helping troubled youth get back on their feet.
At 10:58 a.m., he made the bill a law as he sat in the courtyard of Urban Peak Colorado Springs. Surrounding him were local and state officials, including City Council members. Soon after, he handed his pen to the nonprofit's executive director, Shawna Kemppainen, to keep as a memento.
The new law says records will be expunged immediately if the juvenile is found not guilty, if the case is dismissed or when the juvenile completes the sentence. But repeat offenders and those who committed violent crimes, such as homicide or vehicular homicide, are ineligible to have their records expunged.
"We all know what it's like to be in a position where our pasts start to hold us back," said Kemppainen. "And in my mind, that's what today is really about. The state of Colorado has taken the chance to move some huge, huge boulders out of the way for some young people."
The organization, established in 2000, works with about 550 youths across the Pikes Peak region, supplying them with shelter and services to help them get off the streets.
Hickenlooper said the new law helps guide juveniles who committed minor offenses - including stealing and selling drugs - toward a better life.
"Whenever you address an issue like this," he said, "you run the risk that people are going to say, 'You're soft on crime; you don't care about public safety.' In truth, it's just the opposite. A bill like this allows us to give kids a real chance to figure things out."
The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and state Sen. John Cooke, R-Weld County, and was passed by the House and Senate earlier this month.