Politics

The Kentucky legislature has voted to expand the state’s law that allows people to clear some Class D felonies from their records after a five-year waiting period.

Under current law, people who have been convicted of one of 61 Class D felonies can have their criminal records cleared once they complete their sentences, wait five years and pay a $500 fee.

Senate Bill 57 expands the policy to other non-violent, non-sexual Class D felonies and lowers the fee to $250.

Rep. Charles Booker, a Democrat from Louisville, voted in favor of the bill, saying that it will allow people who made mistakes to pursue their dreams.

“Even if they made a mistake and they fell down that they can get back up. And that they can move forward and live out their dreams in the best place on the planet,” Booker said.

The bill allows people with Class D felony convictions from before 1975 to clear their records if a judge approves. It would also make people who complete the expungement process eligible to have their voting rights restored.

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

An earlier version of the bill included a 10-year waiting period for the new class of expungements, but was lowered to five years in an amendment that passed on Thursday.

The final version of the bill also raises the burden of proof for people seeking expungements to prove that “expunging the record is consistent with the welfare and safety of the public.”

Rep. Ed Massey, a Republican from Hebron and sponsor of the bill in the House, reminded lawmakers that people seeking expungements would often have to wait much longer than five years because their sentences usually include a probationary period.

“At the end of that probationary period, the clock starts ticking — that’s the five-year period — so in most cases, a person on a Class D still could not get an expungement for up to 10 years,” Massey said.

The bill has passed both the House and Senate and now awaits Gov. Matt Bevin’s signature for it to become law.

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