Blog: Kentucky Needs Legislative Fix to Offer Expungement Fee Waiver to Indigents

The 2021 session of the Kentucky General Assembly brought a number of major successes for the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition, but we were not able to pass every item on our agenda. One of a  few priorities that did not make it across the finish line in the short session was SB 237 sponsored by freshmen Senators David Yates of Louisville and Brandon Storm of London. The bipartisan bill would allow for the court to waive expungement fees on a finding an individual lacks the means to pay.

At its core, SB 237 builds on the important expungement reforms of the last 5 years.

The legislation is necessary because in 2018, a Jefferson Circuit Court Judge ruled a Louisville man who qualified as indigent could not obtain fee a waiver because fees related to expungement were not waivable under current law. Legislators argued if a Kentucky defendant cannot pay a fee, common practice is that a judge has discretion to waive it. The Court of Appeals, however, felt “legislative intent is expressed by omission as well as by inclusion” and no waivers could be offered as written in statute.

Considering the Commonwealth’s high recidivism rate, a lack of a fee waiver for indigents is another obstacle to successful reentry.  Our coalition is committed to working with legislators to clarify expungement law in 2022.

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