Interest in legislation to expunge the records of non-violent Class D felons is growing as more states are passing similar bills and companies, such as Wal-Mart, Target and Koch Industries, are beginning to “ban the box” on employment forms.
In Kentucky, the implementation of legislation to give individuals with certain low-level offenses the right to remove the incident from their record would have a significant economic impact, according to Kentucky Public Advocate Ed Monahan.
“Right now, if you are convicted of a Class D felony, you pretty much have an economic death sentence. This allows for some hope that you can gain meaningful employment and some advancement in the future,” Monahan said.
During the 2015 session, the House passed bipartisan House Bill 40 sponsored by Reps. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, and David Floyd, R-Bardstown, which sought to expunge the records of individuals with certain class D felonies so they could apply for jobs with confidence that their prior offense would not take them off the list for consideration. The House passed the bill 84-14 but no action was taken in the Senate.
There is a long list of offenses that qualify as a Class D felony in the state but the legislation proposed in the Kentucky General Assembly would only allow for a judge to expunge the record of a non-violent felon for offenses such as lower level drug charges. The legislation prohibits felonies involving things like sex offenses, child and elder abuse from being expunged.
Legislation that has been proposed at the state level in recent years has included a wait time of at least five years, after the time served and all debts has been paid, before a record can be expunged to ensure another crime is not committed.
In an interview with the Kentucky Chamber, Monahan said the effort is about not only giving people another chance but also giving employers access to a bigger workforce as he said statistics show there are more than 94,000 people in the state eligible to have their single Class D felony expunged.
“I think the economic benefit would be significant in Kentucky. It would also allow for businesses who might have workforce challenges to have more people that they could explore hiring because they don’t have to worry about any liability from hiring somebody with a Class D felony because the felony would be expunged,” Monahan said.
As for the business side of the issue, Monahan explained that HB40 contained a provision which provides protections to businesses being sued for negligent hiring (hear more at 1:30 in the interview).
Monahan also discussed the arguments on both sides of this issue, additional details about the process and how he sees the legislation moving forward in the 2016 session. Watch the whole interview below:
At the national level, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has advocated for the restoration of felon voting rights and is currently working with Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey on a bill to automatically expunge or seal records for juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes.