Felony expungement bill passes Senate chamber

03/29/2016 07:48 PM

FRANKFORT — Legislation allowing for the expungement of certain felonies has cleared the state Senate, where the legislation has traditionally failed in past sessions.

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.

The new version of the bill would allow individuals convicted of some class D non-violent felony offenses to have their criminal record expunged after a five-year waiting period, post-parole.

A hearing would then be held with the decision left to the judge whether an individual is eligible for expungement, then, after the waiting period, the judgment to vacate an offense will be at a judge’s discretion. That waiting period is 5 years less than what Stivers had originally called for in his initial version of the bill.

Individuals applying for expungement can’t have any other charges pending at the time, and are only eligible to go through the process once.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, voted against the bill because of the “look-back” period being only five years.

“Five years is not a very long time,” Schickel said. “Who are we to hide from someone who hasn’t been re-convicted for five years?”

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, feels that the legislation gives people who have made only one mistake and paid their debt to society have a chance to fully reintegrate into society and the workplace.

“It’s also an opportunity for society to allow those who have made a mistake to come back in and contribute in a positive way,” Neal said. “That makes us stronger, not weaker.”

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, admitted that he didn’t like everything about the bill, but he does agree with affording people the opportunity to get a second chance.

“We are a country of second chances and there’s many people in my district who have come forth with their stories of mistakes that they’ve made and I think they deserve a second chance,” Higdon said.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has been an ardent proponent of felony expungement. She testified in support of House Bill 40 before the House Judiciary Committee in January.

In response to the passing of House Bill 40, Grimes said, “We’re closer than ever to being able to say the Commonwealth of Kentucky truly offers second chances.”

“I am proud that the Kentucky Senate has voted to pass House Bill 40, allowing expungement of certain low-level felony offenses of persons who have completed their sentence,” she continued. “For too long in Kentucky, too many people with a mistake in their past have been worried every second of the day about how they will provide for their families, pay their taxes, and meet other obligations because they cannot find gainful employment due to the scar on their record.”

Grimes went on to say that the amended legislation is “not perfect,” but she felt it is a reasonable compromise.

“I urge the House to concur and send House Bill 40 to the Governor. Let’s make it law,” Grimes concluded.

The bill moves back to the House chamber for their review.


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