felony expungement

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Kentuckians who can’t afford to have their criminal records expunged, or cleared, can now ask a court to waive those fees. That change could have a big impact on the lives of individuals who have served their time and are eligible for expungement.


A recent opinion from the Kentucky Supreme Court allows individuals to ask the court to waive expungement fees if they can’t afford to pay them. When someone has served their time, including parole for non-violent, non-sex-related crimes in Kentucky, they can apply to have mention of their crimes removed from public record


“This is a really important win for access to justice because now there’s a clear signal to everybody that there’s no financial barrier to accessing the court to seek this relief,” said Mike Abate, a lawyer who worked on the case. 


Kate Howard

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is wading into a precedent-setting legal battle to determine if the fees associated with expunging a criminal record can be waived for people who can’t afford them.

Frederick Jones, a 56-year old Louisville man, sought a waiver in 2018 for a then-$500 fee to clear a decades old felony theft charge from his record. A Jefferson Circuit court ruled he had to pay. And when the Kentucky Supreme Court takes up the case, Cameron will be advocating for that ruling to be upheld.

In doing so, the court would set a standard that anyone wanting a felony expungement must pay fees, currently set at $300. Criminal justice reform advocates and voting rights activists say that will impede access to expungement, a process needed for many people with criminal convictions who want to reclaim their right to vote, bear arms, participate in their kids’ school activities and get jobs.


A bill that would automatically clear the criminal records of people acquitted of committing a crime unanimously passed out of a legislative committee on Wednesday.

The proposal would make the justice system more fair and that he didn’t realize the process didn’t already exist, Rep. Kevin Bratcher, a Republican from Louisville.

“House Bill 327 corrects something that I certainly did not know was going on,” Bratcher said. “And I bet you most of your constituents don’t know.”



The Kentucky legislature has voted to expand the state’s law that allows people to clear some Class D felonies from their records after a five-year waiting period.

Under current law, people who have been convicted of one of 61 Class D felonies can have their criminal records cleared once they complete their sentences, wait five years and pay a $500 fee.

Senate Bill 57 expands the policy to other non-violent, non-sexual Class D felonies and lowers the fee to $250.

WKU Public Radio

A series of reports from The Pew Charitable Trusts that focuses on access to the ballot box said Kentucky lawmakers are showing increased interest in reforming state elections.


Scott Greenberger is the executive editor of Stateline, a journalistic project at Pew. He said some lawmakers in the commonwealth are following national trends on issues such as when citizens can cast their ballots.

An event this week in Bowling Green is aimed at giving past criminals a second chance while filling a few thousand job vacancies in the region. 

An expungement fair will be held Wednesday to help prospective workers with a criminal past wipe the slate clean.  The state legislature passed a bill last year allowing Kentuckians convicted of certain felonies, often drug offenses, to have their records expunged. 

Robert Boone heads the South Central Workforce Development Board and says a September screening event yielded 28 people considered work-ready.


The majority whip of the state Senate says he wants to expand Kentucky’s felony expungement law to allow people convicted of selling small amounts of marijuana to apply to clear their record after 10 years.

Last year, lawmakers voted to allow people convicted of some nonviolent, nonsexual Class D felonies to apply to expunge their records if they stayed out of trouble for five years and paid a $500 fee.

But drug trafficking is not included among the list of crimes eligible for expungement.


Kentuckians with certain Class D felony convictions are now eligible to apply to clear their criminal records as long as they have stayed out of trouble for five years.

The new law also allows people with gubernatorial pardons to expunge convictions and loosens restrictions for clearing misdemeanor convictions.

Louisville attorney Benham Sims, a former Jefferson District Court judge, said the new law will make it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs and get on with their lives.

“The number one way to reduce a return to jail is employment,” Sims said. “We need to allow these people to move on.”

The new law applies to 61 Class D felonies, which constitute about 70 percent of Class D felonies committed. Those with eligible convictions have to wait five years after completing their sentences (incarceration, parole, restitution, probation, etc.) before applying.


Gov. Matt Bevin has signed a bill that will allow some Class D felonies to be cleared from criminal records five years after a sentence is completed.

The felony expungement bill failed in the legislature for more than a decade largely because of Republican opposition from the Senate. But Bevin, a Republican, said he would support the bill on the campaign trail last year and has now followed through on the promise, signing it into law on Tuesday.

“It is critical that there is an opportunity for redemption, that there is an opportunity for second chances, because America is a land that was founded on these principles,” Bevin said.

The new policy would apply to 61 Class D felonies, which constitute about 70 percent of Class D felonies committed. Some of the most frequently committed offenses are failure to pay child support, possession of a controlled substance and theft.

Creative Commons

Kentuckians who have committed certain felony offenses would be able to clear their records under a bill that passed the state Senate Tuesday. The bill’s passage marked a milestone for the Senate, which has largely ignored the issue for more than a decade.

The new policy would apply to 61 Class D felonies, which constitute about 70 percent of Class D felonies committed.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville, shepherded the bill through the Senate.

“You have the biggest-ticket items, the things that are the biggest impediments to the people being able to get back out there and find work, provide for their families, contribute to this commonwealth,” he said.

The list includes failure to pay child support, possession of a controlled substance and theft, among others.

LRC Public Information

Some Kentuckians with felony convictions would be eligible to have their voting rights restored under a bill that a Senate committee approved on Wednesday.

The bill would allow Kentuckians to vote on whether to give the legislature authority to determine which felony crimes would be eligible.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester and sponsor of the bill, said previous attempts to restore voting rights have gone about the process wrong.

“The bills that I felt had come before us about restoration of civil rights were not appropriately taken because we, as the General Assembly, did not have the authority per our constitution to do that,” he said.

Currently, only the governor can restore voting rights to those with felony convictions.

LRC Public Information

The state House on Friday passed a bill that would allow people to clear class D felony convictions from their criminal records five years after they’ve completed their sentences.

The Senate Republicans’ leader took little time to begin critiquing the proposed legislation.

The bill’s sponsor, Louisville Democratic Rep. Darryl Owens, said the bill is about redemption and second chances.

“It’s about acknowledging that but for the grace of God could go each of us. But we got lucky,” Owens said.

Those convicted of sex offenses, crimes against the elderly, crimes against children, abuse of public trust, human trafficking, and possession of child pornography would be excluded from the bill.

Similar legislation has passed the Democratic-led House in recent years, but the Republican-led Senate has remained reluctant to follow.

The House passed the bill Friday by a vote of 80-11.

Kentucky LRC

A bill that would allow Kentuckians to clear class D felonies from their criminal records cleared a House legislative committee on Wednesday.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, said the bill will likely pass his chamber later this week, but how the bill will fare in the Republican-led state Senate continues to be a mystery.

Felony expungement has long been a goal of social justice organizations and Democrats, but the issue has recently gathered the support of the business community and some Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Matt Bevin.

Russell Coleman, a spokesman for the Kentucky Smart on Crime coalition, said that support has grown because of how deeply drug addiction has permeated Kentucky.

“It is affecting every community, every town and that’s just changed our perspective on how we address these issues,” said Coleman, who previously served as a legal adviser and top aid to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

LRC Public Information

The priority bills of the Kentucky state Senate’s Republican majority include several familiar policies: right-to-work, repealing the prevailing wage and enacting medical review panels.

Senate Republican leaders announced on Wednesday the bills they’ll focus on passing during the 2016 legislative session, which began Tuesday. Their top goal is passage of a bill that would reform the state’s education standards.

The caucus also introduced several bills in response to events that turned conservative heads over the past year. The Republican Senate will push one bill that would prohibit non-Medicaid state tax dollars from funding Planned Parenthood, another that would prohibit the sale of fetal tissue, and another that remove county clerks’ signatures from marriage licenses.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, said the issues are in line with the campaign platform put forth by Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican elected in November.