Supporters of felony expungement bill celebrate victory, anticipate changes
The sponsor of the bill wants to decrease the fee and increase the number of eligible crimes
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There will soon be a second chance for thousands of ex-felons in Kentucky.
A bill that would clear their records has finally landed on Gov. Matt Bevin's desk, but supporters are already planning to make changes.
The bill allows some who have spent time behind bars to get a fresh start, but the process will be longer and more expensive than some supporters had wanted.
“It was bad decision-making on my part.”
Rebecca Collett says those decisions ultimately led to a drug conviction more than ten years ago.
She has since turned her life around and will soon earn a master’s degree in social work.
“I want to help others with addictions. I want to be there and provide the tools, also, that I've learned,” Collett said.
But there is still one potential obstacle to getting a license, and that’s the felony conviction on her record.
“I feel like having my record expunged will give me the ability to have true freedom,” she said.
A bill passed last week by the General Assembly will allow Collett and other ex-felons to clear their records. But it will not be automatic.
The bill applies to 70 percent of Class D, or lowest level, felony convictions and excludes any violent or sex crime.
It also requires a five-year waiting period and no second offense.
A judge would have to approve, and there's a $500 fee.
“Five-hundred dollars might be fairly expensive, but that’s something we have to work on,” said Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville).
Owens has been fighting for the expungement bill for more than five years. He's pleased it finally passed, despite the added conditions.
“There are so many people who are deserving of a second chance, who are deserving of redemption, who are deserving of an opportunity to get their life back on track,” Owens said.
Owens says he'll work next year to decrease the fee and increase the number of eligible crimes.
“We have some work to do, but we have something to work from and work toward,” he said.
Collett says she plans to be the first in line when the bill becomes law in July.
“I'm willing to go, for the last time, to plead my case and show a judge I've truly changed,” she said.
Gov. Bevin will hold a ceremony to sign the bill next week.
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