Expungement bill passes

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Legislation to expand the number of Kentuckians eligible to have low-level felonies expunged from their criminal records received final passage by a 36-1 vote Thursday in the state Senate.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 57, would expand discretionary expungement to all Class D felonies, except those that involve a breach of public trust, sex offenses, crimes against children and violent crimes that may cause serious bodily injury or even death. Another provision of SB 57 outlines how the state would handle expungement requests for crimes committed before 1975 when Kentucky changed its penal code.

Final passage came after the Senate concurred with amendments the House made to SB 57. Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said those changes included reducing the waiting period to apply for expungement to five years. The original version of the bill contained a 10-year waiting period. Under the new language, any expungement would not become official until the applicant paid the processing fee, but that fee was cut in half to $250.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, said SB 57 would provide a second chance for people in society by removing barriers for re-entry into the workforce.

“I think this is a common sense, positive step forward,” he said. “I want to commend (Higdon) for his hard work and foresight.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, explained his “yes” vote.

“This has been a movement from (Higdon) for as long as I’ve known him,” Thayer said. “He is a strong believer in second chances and I know it’s a big part of his Catholic faith because I share that faith with him. But I also believe it is a tribute to his patriotism and what it means to be an American and give people a second chance so they can go back to work, provide for their families and have dignity.”

SB 57 now goes to the governor.

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