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Former paramedic loses battle to expunge felony arrest record after grabbing officer during call

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Although her arrest was called “unfortunate,” the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled to uphold a decision by the 2nd Judicial District Court saying the paramedic’s arrest is record of how law enforcement operates and as such is important for public accountability.

Former Albuquerque paramedic Christine Stump will be saddled with a felony arrest record for life, pending an appeal, after a “misunderstanding” with an Albuquerque police officer, reports the Albuquerque Journal.

In 2008, Stump was working as a paramedic for Presbyterian Healthcare Services ambulance company when she and Albuquerque police officer Regina Sanchez were responding to a suicidal woman. According to reports of the encounter, the two women argued about who had priority over the scene, and while Stump asked Sanchez to move away from her flailing patient, Sanchez pushed the patient’s face, neck and arm into the gurney. Stump then grabbed Sanchez’s arm.

The next day, police officers arrested Stump at her home on a charge of battery on a police officer.

Stump, who was then 40, was booked into jail and charged with fourth-degree felony battery upon a peace officer, which is the “unlawful, intentional touching or application of force to the person of a peace officer while he is in the lawful discharge of his (or her) duties, when done in a rude, insolent, or angry manner.”

The city quickly pulled the case out of court and into mediation, where attorneys for police, Stump and Presbyterian agreed to dismiss it — accompanied by the city’s promise to support Stump’s effort to erase the incident from any database.

But that required going to court, and 2nd Judicial District Judge Clay Campbell ultimately ruled that he didn’t have the power to erase her felony record.

As what appeared as a compromise to Stump, who Campbell said was wronged in the incident, the judge ordered the Albuquerque Police Department, the state of New Mexico Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Records Bureau, and the Metropolitan Court to attach his ruling to Stump’s case. That way, prospective employers doing a background check on Stump can see the circumstances surrounding the arrest and disposition of the case.

Since Campbell’s ruling, Stump has fought to force the court to erase the records.

But the Supreme Court’s order issued Thursday, written by Justice Barbara Vigil, concludes Stump’s case unless she plans to appeal.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government submitted an amicus brief for the case concedes Stump’s arrest was unfortunate.

“While it was probably a wrongful arrest – APD arrested her for basically doing her job – it is a record of something done by law enforcement that probably shouldn’t have been done,” said New Mexico Foundation for Open Government President, Greg Williams. He also said that while expunging the records may help Stump, it wouldn’t help the public hold law enforcement accountable. “We would have no record of misconduct,” he said.

While that may be bad news for Stump, the city and government transparency advocates who argued against Stump’s effort to erase her record said it was the correct decision.

“The city and APD believe that the availability of felony arrest records for public inspection is an important policy issue that should be decided in the legislative process, not in court cases,” City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said Thursday

in an email to the Albuquerque Journal. “The New Mexico Legislature has allowed expungement only in limited misdemeanor cases, not for felony arrests. Because of the public interest in transparency and access to public records, felony arrest records should remain available to the public unless and until that law is changed through the legislative process.”

Jocelyn Drennan, Stump’s attorney, did not return calls Thursday or for previous news reports of Stump’s case reports the Albuquerque Journal.

 

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