FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -- Legislation allowing for the removal of low level felony convictions from a person’s record after five years of clean living, was the subject of a ceremonial bill signing Friday.
The legislation, passed by the 2019 General Assembly, allows expungement of all Class D felonies, which carry a prison term of up to five years; except for those involving abuse of public office, a sex offense, or an offense committed against a child, which did not result in serious bodily injury or death.
Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, the sponsor of the measure, says he had been working on getting this passed for six years. “A lot of people say this is a soft on crime bill, I say it’s an economic development bill. This bill helps a lot of people who simply made a mistake, who today are not the same person that made that mistake years ago.”
He noted there are a lot of people who plead guilty to a Class D felony but don’t go to prison. “Over 8,000 people a year, over 40,000 during the past five years, have pleaded guilty to a felony, and never served one day of jail time. So how dangerous are these felons, if they never served a day in jail?”
Higdon says the bill helps a lot of people. “They pleaded guilty, served no jail time, and thought they got off easy, to find out they had this little black cloud follow them the rest of their life.”
Amanda Hall with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, who worked with Higdon to get the legislation passed, said she herself is in long term recovery.
“During my route to get there,” she said, “I was incarcerated, and I know how a felony can impact your entire life. I have been denied, housing, I’ve been turned down for jobs. Now I’m a college graduate and even that was a little hard, because they ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony.”
Gov. Matt Bevin noted to Hall that he and the ACLU are quite often on opposite sides in legal issues, but that’s not the case this time, and quoted Frederick Douglass.
“He said, ‘I’ll work with anybody to do good, and with nobody to do evil’. If we did more of this in government, how much better would we deserve? “This is a human issue, it’s a people issue. By working together to do good, good things are happening. Thousands and thousands of lives will be made better, just like yours.”
The bill also describes the process that must be followed to petition for expungement.
The legislation is Senate Bill 57.