FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 20, 2014) — A bill that would allow low-level, one-time Kentucky felons to ask the courts to erase — or “expunge” — their felony records cleared the House Wednesday on a 79-21 vote.
House Bill 64, sponsored by Rep. Darryl T. Owens, D-Louisville, and Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, would apply to a Class D felon whose conviction was not based on a sex crime, elder abuse, or a crime against a child; who completed a sentence or probation at least five years prior; and who has not been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or violation since the felony conviction they want erased. It would also apply to those whose felony charges did not result in an indictment.
Provisions in the original bill that would have made it “unlawful discrimination” for an employer to refuse to hire, to suspend, or otherwise “discriminate against” someone who had a Class D felony expunged under HB 64 were removed from the legislation by the House.
A Class D felony is a low-level felony that carries between a year and five years in jail or prison, according to current law.
An amendment to the bill approved by the House would still require those with an expunged criminal record to reveal that record as required by federal or state law or regulation. Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, asked what law or regulation would require disclosure.
Owens said in the banking and securities industry there are some federal regulations “which basically exceed the requirements of this.” A similar situation may arise in the drug industry, he said. “In those cases, if an individual wanted to, let’s say, get employment as a securities agent or one of those positions and work in a pharmacy, they would have to reveal what their past was and that agency would make the determination as to whether they qualify to perform that job.”
Lee said he has concerns about some private employers being allowed to require disclosure of an expunged record on an application for employment while others don’t have that ability. “There’s an inequity there—we’re not treating all employers equally.” Questions were also raised by some lawmakers about access to expunged records given to government agencies in special cases.
As many as 94,000 individuals could be eligible for expungement under the legislation, according to testimony provided by Owens in committee earlier this session. Current Kentucky law only allows expungement in misdemeanor cases that are not based on sex crimes or crimes against children.
Speaking on the bill on the House floor, Floyd told his colleagues: “Every one of us wants justice to be done, so let justice be done. And then let it be done.”
The legislation would be retroactive, meaning it would allow any eligible Class D felons to ask the court to expunge their records. It would also allow anyone convicted of an eligible non-felony offense to ask the courts to expunge that record.
Felons whose records are expunged by the state under HB 64 would also be able to own firearms. Current state law forbids any Kentucky felon to possess a firearm.
HB 64 now goes to the Senate.