BENHAM SIMS III EXPLAINS THE NEWLY INTRODUCTED EXPUNGEMENT BILL…A COMPELLING ARGUMENT CALLS FOR ITS ADOPTION.
Feb. 9, 2013
Message to LawReader by Benham Sims: I ask that you instruct your lawreader clients to also call (their) friends in the Senate and House (to support this reform bill.)
Yesterday, Republican State Senator Julie Denton joined by Democratic State Senators Robin Webb and Kathy Stein, filed Senate Bill 79. This bill reforms and modernizes Kentucky’s expungement law. Expungement is legal process enabling citizens to remove minor criminal offense(s) from their criminal record after a period of at least five years- if the petitioner has not committed a new criminal offense. The law permits citizens to apply to the court where the offense occurred. The court requires that notice be given to any identifiable victim and the prosecutor. Senate Bill 79 requires the court to set a date to review the petition and grants all parties the right to introduce evidence. The statute requires the court to examine the record and proof presented to the court to determine if the expungement should be granted. The decision of whether to grant an expungement is not automatic.
The statute requires the court to consider the age of the person seeking the expungement, the nature of the offense sought to be expunged, the cessation or continuation of unruly or law abding behavior, the education and employment history and opportunity of the petitioner, and the petitioner’s rehabilitation, accomplishments and sobriety. Finally, the court will consider all the evidence and weigh the petitioner’s privacy, employment, and educational interests against the interests of justice and public safety.
Our current expungement law was passed before the internet . No one contemplated in the 1980′s that an employer with a few clicks of a mouse can find out the life history of a job applicant. Sixty-five million Americans (one in four adults) have a criminal record on a background check. Ninety-six percent (96%) of employers run criminal background checks on job applicants. Fifty percent (50%) of the employers (http://www.helpexpungeme.com/Expungement-Statutes-Prevent- Qualified-Individuals.pdf) will not interview an applicant with a criminal background. The employer does not understand or care about the circumstances or the age of the offense, the issue is merely whether the background is clean or lists an offense. A new disturbing trend involves employers running criminal background checks on current employees-thus good employees who have demonstrated excellent skills and work ethics are at risk of losing their job, benefits, and seniority because of a mistake in judgement. In addition, a person cannot volunteer at their daughter’s school, for their son’s little league team, or at their church without agreeing to a criminal background check. Understandably, no one would want their life record on display for the school receptionist, church secretary, or the Little League manager to review. Senate Bill 79 addresses society’s interest in having a definitive sentence, with a beginning and an end to punishment, the need for people to be able to move on with their lives after they make a mistake and secure meaningful and full employment. Senate Bill 79 resolves once and for all that misdemeanor and violation convictions were never meant to be a life time sentence.
Senate Bill 79, http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/13RS/SB79.htm, amends the current law in a number of significant ways:
1. Senate Bill 79 amends the current definition of “violations” so that prosecutors cannot not use a mere speeding ticket to object to the expungement of a criminal record.
2. Senate Bill 79 recognizes that all of us make mistakes and those of us who have committed minor criminal offenses(Violations and Misdemeanors) should be allowed to pay our debt to society and after a period of good behavior of at least 5 years erase the convictions from public databases used by employers.
3. Senate Bill 79 addresses an omission in the current law that prevents thousands of Kentuckians from expunging felony charges when those charges were dismissed in District Court, or the Grand Jury refused to indict, or the prosecutor dismissed in Circuit Court. The current law provides no mechanism to expunge the felony charge. This is fundamentally unfair and Senate Bill 79 provides a procedure for those charged with felonies that were dismissed to expunge their record and restore their name and ability to secure meaningful employment.
4. Senate Bill 79 preserves the right of police agencies and prosecution agencies to maintain records for legitimate investigative and record keeping.
5. Senate Bill 79 provides a protocol for the courts to insure that all parties (prosecutors, victims, and the person seeking the expungement) have an opportunity to be heard on whether an expungement should be granted or not.
6. Senate Bill 79 provides safeguards for the criminal justice system by permitting the legitimate interests of law enforcement, the courts, and prosecution personnel to maintain records for proper investigatory and record keeping but permits the rights of petitioners to remove the records from criminal records utilized by employment agencies.
7. Senate Bill 79 recognizes that other states (including Ohio and Tennessee within the last six months) are granting expungements to their citizens and unless Kentucky also joins their ranks, our citizens will face a significant disadvantage in competing for jobs with our neighbors.
8. Senate crime, paid their debt to society and broken no laws for five years, how does it serve the public to prevent that person from finding a good job, providing for their families, volunteering in our school and neighborhoods?
Contacting your representative is very easy. If you are a registered voter, click on the Kentucky State Board of Elections Voter Information Center https://cdcbp.ky.gov/VICWeb/index.jsp and merely type in your name and date of birth, click on the “submit” button and links to your House District and Senate District will appear along with the House and Senate District Numbers. For example, I live in the 48th House District and my State Representative is Bob Deweese. When I click on his name, I received his contact information including his email and phone numbers. Call and email your State Representative and State Senator today. Five minutes of your time may mean the difference in passage of this bill.
Bill 79 recognizes that minor offenses and violations should not become life sentences. The law recognizes a common truth that: “Young people who make mistakes mature, people learn from mistakes and change their behavior, and lives are forever changed by maturity,employment, sobriety, education, faith or parenthood. If a person has committed a
Hon. Benham J. Sims, III
Benham has started a new expungement legal services company, www.helpexpungeme.com. You can also view his commercial at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utVQT6x1gGM
Benham’s website: http://www.thekentuckylawyer.com/Contact.shtml