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A bill recommended Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee would cut from 90 days to 30 the waiting period to seal criminal records.

Rep. Sarah Capp, R-Ozark, said House Bill 1016 -- also sponsored by Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville -- would have a great impact on housing and employment opportunities for those with a criminal record.

"I had a circuit judge approach me and talk about the backlog of the problems these petitions [cause] just sitting in his office, his coordinator having to keep up with them," Capp said. "From a big-picture standpoint, when somebody is looking for housing, someone is looking for employment, that period of reduction from 90 to 30 days could be significant."

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

According to Arkansas statute 16-90-1413(c), a court cannot grant a uniform petition to seal a criminal record until 90 days have passed since the prosecuting attorney was served.

House Bill 1016 applies solely to uncontested requests, Capp said.

Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, asked if prosecutors could still request a time extension.

"The prosecuting attorney has to be served with a petition within three days and from that period of time, they have 30 days to file an objection and that is not changed," Capp said.

Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, asked Capp how she came up with 30 days.

Capp said she asked the Bureau of Legislative Research to explain the reason for the current waiting period.

"There wasn't a real concrete answer of why 90 days was pulled out of a hat," Capp said. "I thought 30 days was a good period of time, as far as that being the period of time in regards to other legal issues that arise around the state with procedural questions."

-- Jeannie Roberts

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