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State lawmakers lower felony expunction fee

The unfortunate reality for many men and women released from prison is that despite paying their debt to society and their commitment to getting their lives back on track, the road ahead does not always prove to be particularly easy or even particularly fair.

This is perhaps no more apparent than when they seek to land a job, as they'll be required to check the box indicating a criminal record, an automatic rejection for many employers. As frustrating as this can prove to be, it can be even more so when the key to removing this obstacle -- expungement -- can't be secured owing to its steep price tag.

For those unfamiliar with expungement, it's the removal of a criminal conviction from a person's record. For many years, the felony expunction fee here in Tennessee sat at an astounding $350, the third highest in the nation.

In recognition of how this has proven to be too significant of a barrier for too many former prisoners, Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) and Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) sponsored measures in their respective chambers this past session calling for the felony expunction fee to be lowered to $180.

Specifically, the measure, which went on to be passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, and signed by Governor Haslam, allows a reduced felony expunction fee if:

  • The underlying offense is non-violent (i.e., shoplifting, drug possession, etc.)
  • Restitution must have been made
  • Five years must have passed since the end of time served for the underlying offense

The $180 fee will be divided between the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the district attorneys expunction fund, with the former receiving $50 and the latter receiving $130.

While the state general fund is estimated to lose $131,400 in revenue because of the measure, Akbari is predicting the impact will be offset to a considerable degree by the uptick in the number of people seeking expungement under the newly slashed price.

It will be interesting to see what transpires …

If you have questions about expungement or are facing any manner of criminal charges, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.  

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