Amended felony expungement bill clears Senate committee

03/17/2016 03:07 PM

FRANKFORT – The Senate Committee on Judiciary passed a felony expungement bill which would allow individuals convicted of some class D non-violent felony offenses to have their criminal record expunged after a waiting period.

House Bill 40, sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, had most of its original language removed and replaced with language from Senate Bill 298, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers.

HB 40 called for persons who have committed many of the 350 Class D felonies to be eligible for expungement, that list dwindled under Stivers’ legislation to include 57 non-expungable felonies, but was changed again in committee to 61 specific non-expungeable offenses.

Committee chair, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, said that the 61 offenses represent about 70 percent of individuals who commit Class D felonies in the state.

In addition, a hearing must be held with the decision left to the judge whether an individual is eligible for expungement, then, after a 5-year waiting period, the judgement to vacate an offense will be at a judge’s discretion. That waiting period is a lesser time frame than what Stivers had originally called for, seeking a decade long window previously.

Individuals applying for expungement can’t have anything pending at the time, and are only eligible to go through the process one time only.

Former University of Kentucky basketball player Cameron Mills, an ordained minister and founder of Cameron Mills Ministries, told committee members that expungement is giving people a chance to make a living after paying their debt to society.

“After these individuals have served their time, technically paid their debt, their criminal record continues to haunt them,” Mills said. “Many struggle with the real reality that their mistakes will follow them for the rest of their lives.”

Russell Coleman of Kentucky Smart on Crime told legislators that felony expungement
is not a “get out of free jail” card.

“We’re not attempting to diminish the fact that crimes took place and that punishment needs to take place,” Coleman said. “We’re talking about after the fact. After these individuals have paid their debt to society.”

The business community had been slow to warm to the idea of felony expungement, but Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Atkisson says that his organization has opened up to the idea of felony expungement since it’s become a workforce issue.

“There is not only a shortage of workers for certain types of jobs but also what you’ve heard referred to as a skills gap,” Atkisson said. “There’s going to be a lot of job openings and we need all hands on deck.”

Sen. John Schickel, who cast the lone no vote, expressed concerns about a person’s right to know an individual’s past when hiring them for a position.

“One of the things we hear in Frankfort all the time, constantly, is transparency, but yet in this situation, we don’t want transparency,” Schickel, R-Union, said. “We want to keep something from the public that maybe they have the right to know about.”

The bill now moves back to the House for consideration.


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