NASHVILLE, TN (WMC) - As the legislature is wrapping up its latest session, it passed a bill that would reduce the felony expungement fee.
The fee currently is at $350, putting it the third highest in the United States.
The bill (HB 418), sponsored by Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) in the House, reduces the fee to $180.
"The bottom line is this - people's lives should not be defined by the decisions they make on their worst days," Akbari wrote on Facebook. "Once an ex-offender has served their sentence, finances should not be a barrier to getting their lives back on track. I'm looking forward to seeing more records expunged, and more people getting back to work. This wasn't an easy road, but it was certainly worth it."
The bill passed the House of Representatives with an unanimous vote of 90-0.
The bill also reallocates funds from the expungement fee.
With the current fee of $350, the disbursement of the money is as follows:
- $50 goes to the TBI for the purpose of defraying the cost incurred from additional petitions filed and granted.
- $10 goes to the clerk.
- Five percent of the remainder goes to the public defenders expungement fund.
- Forty-five percent of the remainder goes to the district attorneys expungement fund
- Fifty percent of the remainder to the state general fund
The bill passed by the House reallocates those funds only to the TBI and district attorneys expungement fund.
Out of the $180 fee, $50 of it will go to the TBI and $130 goes to the district attorneys expungement fund.
The present law also requires the district public defender to provide a minimum of one education program on the expungement process for eligible petitioners. The new bill eliminates that requirement.
An estimated 927 expungement petitions were received by the state last year.
The bill is estimated to cause the state general fund to lose $131,400 in revenue, the public defenders expungement fund will lose an estimated $13,100, and the district attorneys expungement fund is estimated to lose $500.
The bill will also impact local courts in the state. Local court clerks will lose an estimated $9,100.
However, Akbari is expecting to see an increase in the number of requests for records to be expunged since the fee has been cut to almost half.
The TN Senate equivalent of this bill, SB 1245, is sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville).
The bill passed the senate with a vote of 31-0.