scales-of-justice-art-c061b98727a88b2eMany Kentuckians struggling to find employment because of felony convictions now will be eligible to have them expunged from their criminal record, thanks to a law that went into effect on Friday.

While the process of having the expungement finalized could be lengthy and expensive, many groups around the state are offering free services and information sessions to guide former felons through that process.

During this year’s legislative session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 40, which allows individuals convicted of most Class D felonies to have those convictions cleared from their record five years after their sentence is complete, so long as they have not been convicted of another crime during that time. While those with certain Class D felonies — such as drug trafficking and sex crimes — will not be eligible, the state estimates that nearly 100,000 Kentuckians will be able to take advantage of the new law.

The Administrative Office of the Courts has set up online application forms and electronic filing capabilities on its website to streamline the process. The first step is receiving an expungement certification from the Kentucky State Police to make sure the applicant is eligible, which costs $40. Once their certification is issued, an application can be filed with the circuit court clerk where the felony occurred, which costs $500. If a judge rules in favor of the expungement, the conviction will be vacated and no longer appear in their criminal record during a background check.

Administrative Office of the Courts general counsel Marc Theriault noted in a press release that expungements should not be expected to come quickly, as “the process could take up to six months or more, especially given the high volume of petitioners we expect to apply for expungement. This is a complicated process that will be handled across multiple state agencies. There’s such a huge interest that the volume will exceed what these agencies have seen before.”

In order to provide additional assistance for those seeking to navigate the felony expungement process, the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Department of Public Advocacy, Clean Slate Kentucky and various legal aid organizations are partnering to host four information sessions in Lexington, Covington, Hazard and Paducah over the coming weeks. Clean Slate Kentucky also has detailed steps about the expungement process and available resources on their website.

While these organizations aren’t holding an information session in Louisville, other organizations in the area regularly provide free assistance for those seeking help with an expungement. The Legal Aid Society offers an expungement clinic the second Thursday of every month, the Louisville Urban League takes appointments for assistance with expungements, and the Faulkner Kaelin Law Office is offering free expungement representation to individuals who meet federal poverty guidelines.

The Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet released the following video on Monday describing the expungement application process and highlighting the experience of Campbell County resident West Powell — who faced difficulty finding employment for years due to a burglary conviction when he was a young man, but had his felony expunged by a judge Monday morning.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]