Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; May 7, 2012:
NASHVILLE – State Senator Reginald Tate and State Representative Karen Camper have passed legislation to give citizens who committed certain nonviolent, non-sexual crimes the opportunity to clear their records after years of abiding by the law.
“All crimes are serious, and we should take their punishments seriously, too,” Tate said. “What we are finding, however, is that mistakes people made in their lives 20 years ago are keeping them from obtaining a degree, applying for jobs and moving on with their lives.”
Senate Bill 3520 allows those convicted of certain nonviolent, non-sexual misdemeanors and Class E felonies to apply for expungement of their records. Offenders would be eligible only if the crime was more than five years old and they had completed all requirements of their sentence with no further convictions.
Eligible offenses include various nonviolent theft and fraud charges, vandalism and other nonviolent crimes like failure to appear in court.
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference worked with Camper and Tate to create the list of eligible offenses, as well as the steps necessary to have the crimes expunged. A $350 filing fee for expungement will fund costs associated with the process, as well as provide revenue for the state’s general fund.
The legislation is expected to add more than $7 million in annual revenues to the state’s general fund, but bill sponsors and other lawmakers spoke more to the value of giving one-time, nonviolent offenders a fresh start.
“We have a duty to uphold the law, but we also have the responsibility to forgive those who serve their punishments and learn from their mistakes,” Camper said. “This legislation will provide opportunities to those who have paid their dues and are looking for ways to better themselves and provide for their families.”
The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.