FRANKFORT (AP) — Some convicted felons could have their records expunged in Kentucky under a bill that cleared the state House of Representatives on Friday.
The House voted 80-11 to allow people convicted of class D felonies to have their record expunged. A class D felony is the lowest -level felony in Kentucky, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Felons would have to wait at least five years after the completion of their sentence or their probation, whichever is later. And it does not apply to people convicted of sex crimes, child pornography, human trafficking, public corruption and crimes against children or the elderly.
Similar bills have passed the House in the past, only to die in the Republican-controlled Senate. But as baby boomers continue to retire in record numbers in Kentucky, business leaders have bemoaned the shortage of qualified workers for skilled manufacturing jobs, particularly in the state’s growing automotive industry. That prompted the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to endorse the expungement bill, arguing it would give companies more people to hire without taking on the liability associated with a convicted felon.
The Kentucky State Police estimates the 10-year average number of cases for class D felonies is 15,800. In addition, officials said another 174,068 would be eligible for retroactive expungement.
“A felony on a person’s record is an economic death sentence for life,” said Democratic state Rep. Daryl Owens of Louisville, the bill’s primary sponsor.
Even new Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has enthusiastically endorsed the bill, going so far as to publicly challenge Senate Republicans to pass it. Despite that, strong Republican opposition remains.
State Rep. Robert Benvenuti of Lexington argued the bill was too broad, encompassing a host of violent offenses including arson, domestic violence, assaulting a police officer, fleeing from police and wanton endangerment, which he said includes firing a weapon into someone’s home or “pointing a gun in somebody’s face.”
Benvenuti noted the bill would cause records of a person’s crime to be destroyed, robbing police officers of vital information when they make a traffic stop or detain someone.
“You can expunge somebody’s record but you can’t expunge facts. You can’t expunge behavior. That’s the reality,” he said.
The bill requires judges to expunge someone’s record if they meet all of the requirements, but only once. If someone who has already had a felony expunged tries to have a second felony expunged, the judge has discretion to decide.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Republican President Robert Stivers has said he has some concerns about the bill.
The legislation is House Bill 40.