A bill that would automatically clear the criminal records of people acquitted of committing a crime unanimously passed out of a legislative committee on Wednesday.
The proposal would make the justice system more fair and that he didn’t realize the process didn’t already exist, Rep. Kevin Bratcher, a Republican from Louisville.
“House Bill 327 corrects something that I certainly did not know was going on,” Bratcher said. “And I bet you most of your constituents don’t know.”
The proposal would also apply to individuals whose criminal cases are dismissed and felony grand jury charges if the grand jury doesn’t produce an indictment within a year.
The expungement process would be automatic going forward and those who eligible to have a past record expunged could petition a court to have their records cleared for no cost.
Charles Aull with Greater Louisville Inc., the Louisville area’s chamber of commerce, said that the bill would make sure more Kentuckians eligible of expungement obtain it.
“This will be a good thing for our work force, this will be a good thing for our economy,” Aull said.
The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and is now eligible for a vote in the House.
If it makes it through the legislative process, the bill would add to the list of measures expanding criminal expungement in recent years.
In 2016 and last year, the legislature passed bills expanding expungement to those convicted of several non-violent class D felonies as long as they pay a fee and wait five years after the completion of their sentences.
Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville who supports the bill, says individuals who’ve not been convicted should not have had criminal records in the first place.
“We have a fundamental right of innocence until proven guilty,” Nemes said. “These folks have not been proven guilty, they’re not guilty. This should have been in practice decades ago.”
The committee also passed a bill that would reduce probation time for people if they work 40 hours per week, obtain a GED, complete drug treatment or other endeavors.
Louisville Democratic Rep. Charles Booker said the bill is an “important step in the right direction.
“Our goal is to help families and Kentuckians heal and get back on their feet so they’re not going back to jail,” Booker said.
The legislature is also considering several criminal justice reform measures that seek to reduce the state’s massive prison and jail populations–bills to raise the threshold for what counts as felony theft or non-support, a bill to do away with the state’s cash bail system and a bill to amend the state’s persistent felony offender law.
Those measures have not yet been scheduled to be heard.