If I have a website that has used court records divulging information about someone convicted of a crime, can I get sued if they have since gotten their records expunged?

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If I have a website that has used court records divulging information about someone convicted of a crime, can I get sued if they have since gotten their records expunged?

We were the victim of a crime. My former neighbor was convicted of illegal entry and vandalism. He plead to the charges did probation. I had a restraining order against him (expired). I have blogged on my own site about the incident. Always linking things to scanned public records like his plea agreement, pictures of his arrest, court records (all of which I got from the courts and scanned or because he was arrested in front of my family). Now he has expunged his record and is trying to make it like it never happened. This is wrong. He is threatening to sue me over my website with public records. Is this even reasonable? Just because his record is expunged does make the the public record go away outside of the courthouse?

Asked on January 24, 2014 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You are correct in a legal sense: "expungement" is not time travel, and does not undo the criminal act ab initio or make it that it never happened. You are still entitled to discuss and disclose true public facts, and undoubtedly copies of the relevant documentation still exist in the Web, as well as in public records.

As a practical matter, is it worth fighting--would it not be better to take down the comments and avoid a legal fight that, even should you win, can be emotionally and potentially financially draining?


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