The Iowa Judicial Building.

The Iowa Supreme Court says the debts from all crimes should not be linked together when it comes to clearing someone’s record.

The ruling involves a case where a woman paid off the debt associated with the unauthorized use of a credit card, and the case was dismissed. The woman is identified as Jan Doe in the case, and sought to have the charge expunged from her court record.

The district court denied the request,  saying she had to pay off the debt in other cases before any record could be expunged.

The Iowa Supreme Court says the law was enacted to allow someone to clear the record when they had met their obligation, so the case would not later hamper them in a background check. The ruling says a potential employer could “access our computerized docket and potentially draw inappropriate inferences from the mere presence of a criminal file relating to an individual, even though the criminal charges were dismissed or the individual was acquitted.”

The ruling goes on to say: “Nowhere does the statute indicate the relevant consideration for expungement is the defendant’s total court-ordered financial obligations to the particular county in which the application was filed. The statute does not even use the word ‘county.’ In our view, the State’s interpretation is actually contrary to the purpose of the statute.”

The Supreme Court vacated the district court order. This ruling also applied to two other similar cases.

Here is the ruling: Expungement opinion PDF