Politics

More Kentuckians with low-level felony convictions would be able to clear their criminal records after a waiting period under a bill that passed out of a state Senate committee on Thursday.

Under the current version of Kentucky’s expungement law, people with one of 61 Class D felony convictions can apply to have their records cleared once they complete their sentences, wait five years and pay $500.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, a Republican from Lebanon, has proposed allowing other Class D felonies to be cleared after a 10-year waiting period, as long as the offenses did not involve violence, sex, child abuse or breach of public office.

“When you plead guilty to a felony, a lot of time you don’t realize that it’s a little cloud that follows you around for life,” Higdon said.

Senate Bill 57 would also allow convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia to be cleared after a five-year waiting period.

People with Class D felony convictions from before 1975 would be eligible to clear their records if a judge approves.

“Those penalties were committed over 43 years ago and it allows for an expungement as long as it’s not typical exclusion for expungement — it’s not breach of public office, a sex offense, an offense committed against a child and didn’t result in serious bodily injury or death,” Higdon said.

Since the current expungement law passed in 2016, there have been about 2,000 expungements granted and 300 denied.

Higdon said he disagreed with those who argue that the $500 fee to receive an expungement should be lowered.

“If a felon wants an expungement and wants that record to be expunged, they have an obligation of paying for that bill,” Higdon said.

The bill can now be considered by the full Senate.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.