OWENSBORO, Ky. — A new law meant to give some felons a second chance by expunging their criminal records is causing confusion and disagreement.
The law allows people convicted of certain felonies, including theft and drug possession, to have those felonies expunged after certain conditions are met. Multiple felonies can be expunged if they stem from a “single incident.”
The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports (http://bit.ly/2cZgcQo) the first expungement hearings in Daviess County took place this week.
On Wednesday, Daviess Circuit Judge Jay Wethington expunged a record over the objections of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, saying that charges included in the same indictment could be considered a single incident, even if the offenses occurred on different days.
On Thursday, Judge Joe Castlen made a similar ruling.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Van Meter told the judge, “There’s no way it can be argued that five separate counts with five separate victims, occurring on different days, is a single incident.”
But that is exactly what defense attorney Kevin Laumas did argue, saying that if the charges were supposed to be considered separate incidents, “they should have been on five or six different indictments.”
Castlen granted the expungement, but said it was likely the meaning of the statute would have to be determined the Court of Appeals.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Kuegel defended his office.
“Every person that applies, we are treating them exactly the same as the one that applied before,” Kuegel said. “We’re not bending the rules, we’re following the law as it’s written.”
Castlen said the law’s language could be interpreted so narrowly that it would be difficult for anyone to get relief.
“My hope is the legislature takes it up,” he said.
“I don’t think the court system can fix this. The legislature has to fix it,” he said. “It’s very unclear.”
Of the 16 applications for expungement in Daviess Circuit Court that the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office has reviewed, prosecutors have only objected to four, Van Meter said.
Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com