Senate President Stivers preparing to introduce rewrite of expungement bill

02/21/2016 12:30 PM

FRANKFORT — Session after session a bill is filed in the state House of Representatives which would allow the expungement of certain low-level, non-violent Class D felonies, but this year the bill is getting an update in the upper chamber.

Senate President Robert Stivers told Pure Politics the legislation would likely be introduced this week, and will include some key changes from the House version of the legislation sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville.

The current draft of Stivers’ bill would vacate the conviction, upon request, and then expunge the record. Those in favor of this process argue that it offers a truly clean slate where there would be no record of a felony.

“House Bill 40 and others does not address a number of other legal scenarios when you merely expunge,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield on the difference in Stivers’s legislation and the current House expungement bill.

An expungement, Westerfield told Pure Politics in a phone interview, is just a concealment of the record that it happened, but by vacating a judgment would mean that the felony never took place.

Wiping the slate by vacating the judgement would “substantially change the landscape for a number of things,” Westerfield said. By matter of law, he said among vacating and expunging would open up the possibility for restoration of voting rights and gun ownership — which are stripped after a felony conviction — though legal experts are still debating if there would be any other steps necessary.

Stivers said his bill takes into account the numerous opinions surrounding the issue of expungement and makes an attempt to “maybe not please everybody, but at least satisfy everybody.”

Stivers’ bill is expected to include a group of Class D felony offenses which would be ineligible for expungement. Much like the House version of the bill, Stivers’ legislation would also include a timeline of good behavior before someone is eligible for an expungement, but that number has yet to be disclosed. The current version of HB 40 requires a five-year waiting period.

Westerfield said there has been a push from wide range of groups seeking a “carve-out” to be added to the list of crimes which would be non-expungable. Those requests will have lawmakers walking a tight-rope to ensure that the bill doesn’t become overly watered down in the process and still allowing retribution for those who have paid their dues after making a single mistake.

“If we exclude everything we’re being asked to exclude there’s no point in passing the bill in the first place,” Westerfield said.

In the draft version of Stivers’ expungement bill, Westerfield said there is a “very lengthy list” of Class D, non-expungable offenses, but it’s “not exhaustive.”

When the bill is ready Westerfield said he is prepared to hear it in committee, and he expects there will be debate on which crimes should and should not be non-expungable.

The Hopkinsville Republican, said he’s fine with calling Stivers or Owens bill this session in his committee.

For Stivers he is hopeful that his bill will be able to meet the demands on both sides, and from what he’s picking up among colleagues there is a willingness to listen to his bill.

“Some of the minority party have heard about what I’m trying to do and agree in essence, but you know it’s the details, so we’ll see what happens,” he said.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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