House Bill 40, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, and Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, was discussed for over an hour before the committee approved it. The bill is nearly identical to 2015 HB 40, which passed the House by a vote of 84-14 but stalled in the Senate last session. Other versions of the bill have been considered in earlier sessions.
This session’s felony expungement bill would:
- Allow the expungement—or sealing—of felony charges that did not lead to a grand jury indictment with input from affected parties, including any victim or victims.
- Allow expungement of Class D felonies with input from all affected parties, including any victim or victims. Sex offenders, those who committed an offense against a child or vulnerable adult, those who have recently been convicted of another offense or violation, or those against whom charges are pending would not be eligible for expungement.
- Prevent information pertaining to an expunged conviction from being use in a civil suit or proceedings involving negligent hiring or licensing.
Floyd told the committee that Kentucky’s rate of felony recidivism—or committing another offense —would be “greatly reduced if there was hope at the end of the tunnel for these individuals.” The current rate of recidivism stands at 41 percent, according to testimony on the bill from Lexington attorney Russell Coleman.
House Majority Whip Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, called the bill “a common sense approach” that will give judges discretion to review each case while giving felons the “an opportunity at redemption and hope.”
“It’s very important to our society and the future of the state,” Bell said.
House Minority Caucus Chair Stan Lee, R-Lexington, said he continues to have concerns about the legislation.
“It seems in part by this legislation that … philosophically, we’re sort of taking away people’s ability to knowingly forgive. We’re hiding it from people,” said Lee. “There are other considerations that I think we need to fully vet before this bill becomes law.”
Kentucky’s expungement statutes do not currently allow for expungement of felonies, although Class D felons may be allowed to complete pretrial diversion to clear their name. There is a pathway under Kentucky law for expungement of misdemeanor crimes.