By Lee Davis
A recently passed bill which will became law on July 1st will permit some criminals to expunge select felonies and misdemeanors from their records after paying a fee and meeting other court requirements. The law will only apply to those with a single conviction, not repeat offenders.
Before passage of the bill, legislators discussed how the current economic decline has led to a surge in the number of people seeking to expunge their records of criminal convictions. As jobs have become scarcer people found that even old infractions could be used as justification to avoid hiring them. There’s been a surge in the number of requests for expungements over the last few years, from 23,000 in 2007 to some 39,000 across the state in 2011. Legislators say that this recent loosening of restrictions contained in the recent bill will lead to huge additional increases, adding a shocking 60,000 requests each year.
Before the recent passage, a conviction was permanent unless there was an executive exoneration from the governor. Expungement was only allowed for those not guilty or whose charges were dropped or those sentenced to judicial diversion.
The recent passage means that Tennessee will join at least 17 other states that permit first-time offenders to expunge a criminal charge under certain conditions. Under the current law, offenders can only have a single criminal conviction, must be willing to wait for five years after all court requirements have been fulfilled and then must pay $350 to apply to have their one charge expunged. Those seeking expungement must apply in the county where they are convicted and a hearing must be held allowing prosecutors the opportunity to object.
Most of the felonies that are eligible for expungment are property crimes like theft and vandalism where the value of the stolen goods is less than $1,000. Very minor drug charges like simple possession can also be expunged. The majority of misdemeanors are eligible, with the exception of convictions for violent crimes like assault and domestic assault, a few kinds of weapons charges, child neglect, molestation and DUI convictions.
Read: “TN law allows some felons a second chance,” by Brian Haas, published at WBIR.com.
Earlier: "Expungement law goes into effect." by Stevie Phillips