That includes unlawful arrests that the court dismisses, which is what happened to the plaintiffs. The couple was arrested for possession of marijuana plants, but a judge later dismissed the case due to police negligence and misconduct. The couple want the arrest expunged from their criminal records. They’re worried the mark will follow them into the future, and could bar them from certain jobs or opportunities. Many people don’t realize that any arrest can show up on a criminal background check, even if there wasn’t a conviction or the charges were dismissed.
When an arrest is expunged, the record is removed from databases and physically destroyed, as if it never happened. This is different from sealing a record, in which the record still exists but is closed off from the public. The statutory guidelines in Alaska don't have a section for expungement. Sealing is allowed, but only if the person can prove that the charges "beyond a reasonable doubt, resulted from mistaken identity or a false accusation." That is to say, if they can prove they're innocent. If a person was guilty of a crime but has since rehabilitated himself, there is no avenue in Alaska for him to clear his name and get a fresh start. That one mistake will follow him forever.
If a judge rules in the ACLU's favor, it would be a big win for the civil rights of Alaskan residents. In the meantime, we're thankful that in Illinois residents do have options for expungement, sealings and requests for executive clemency (pardons). It's easy to take for granted, but it can make a big difference for someone's future success.