FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) – With the signing of House Bill 40 into law, tens of thousands of Kentuckians like Rebecca Collett received a shot at a clean slate.
"When he signed that paper I just lost it, I was so excited this is such a joyous occasion it's such a significant piece of history for Kentucky," Collett said.
Collett was convicted of a Class D drug felony when she was 20-years-old, a mistake she says has had a lasting impact, long after her jail time and substance abuse treatment.
"It impacts me because as a social worker I have limited opportunities to go into specific fields, hospitals dealing with mental health, children, I can't work with children having a felony on my record but now that I can get my record expunged all those opportunities are going to be opened up for me I'm going to be able to work more with anything really. It's so amazing to know that I won't be judged by something that happened so long ago," Collett said.
This law allows Kentuckians convicted of certain Class D felonies to apply for expungement 5 years after they complete their jail time, parole or probation. Violent crimes, crimes against children or sex crimes are not included in HB 40. This expanded expungement is state representative Louisville's Darryl Owens has championed for years
"I am ecstatic. I am happy, but I am happy for those folks who will now be able get their lives on the right track, be productive and contribute significantly to this community and to the commonwealth," Owens said.
Owens says Governor Bevin's support was key to passing house bill 40.
"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.
Besides redemption, some supporters, like Greater Louisville Inc’s Sarah Davasher-Widsom, say the law will help workforce development.
"Expungement reform will help employers find qualified employees to fill vacant positions and allow tens of thousands of Kentuckians to better support themselves and their families. We are happy this measure is now law and that Kentucky’s workforce will be growing in the near future," said Sarah Davasher-Widsom, Chief Operating Officer for GLI.
This does not automatically expunge records, felons will have to apply, and then they will have a court hearing to decide on expungement. This law will go into effect in July.