‘I really want my old job back’
Kentucky is one of many states with new laws designed to make it easier for some crimes to be stricken from a person’s record, with the goal of giving those offenders a better chance of getting a good job and living a “normal life.” Last Thursday, Aug. 2, attorneys from the Kentucky Department of Corrections and representatives of other state and local agencies were at First Christian Church to tell the dozen or so attendees how to get eligible misdemeanors and felonies expunged from their criminal record. Also present were representatives of the Woodford Health Department, Goodwill, the Kentucky Career Center, and several private entities.
“Sarah,” “Jane” and “T.J.” agreed to interviews before and after the event on condition of anonymity.
Sarah, 29, said she was hoping to expunge a conviction for falsely reporting an incident. She said she’d lost her job after last year’s incident, which came about when she filed an emergency protective order against an ex-boyfriend who she said lied to police. A perjury charge was also dropped in the plea deal, she said.
“So it was either go to trial in two years and have five years (in jail) over my head, or take a charge and (then) worry about getting this off my record,” she said.
Asked what’s happened in her life since then, Sarah smiled and said, “Not working,” later adding that it’s been “like hell.”
Her degree in health care didn’t help because of the nature of her conviction. However, the day before the meeting, she met with her counselor, who told her about the expungement session. She said the news made her feel pretty good.
“I really want my old job back. I’ve got three kids,” Sarah said.
The day after the meeting, she said she’d been under the weather that evening and left early, but not before she got the information she needed, including an email address that will allow her to start the expungement process.
“I know that I can get some of it off there, but I’m not sure about the (filing a false report conviction),” she said, adding that she may need a lawyer for that.
She said she felt better for having gone.
“I just did stuff in my past, when I was younger. They’re all misdemeanors or whatever,” said Jane, 45. “In my early 20s, I had a couple of DUIs and stuff like that…”
Jane said she has a pretty good job but couldn’t really advance or get a better job elsewhere because of her mistakes as a young adult, including a fourth-degree assault conviction on a boyfriend.
“The last (conviction) I had was in 1997. That’s 21 years ago,” she said.
Jane said one recent job application ended with her being told she couldn’t be hired because of the DUI and assault convictions. She said she didn’t attend last year’s expungement meeting because she didn’t want anyone she knew to see her there.
The next day, Jane said she’d learned who to contact to “get the ball rolling.”
She said she has a good friend in the court system who spoke to a prosecutor about her case.
“So I will just contact them and basically, they will file a motion and I will just have to show up for court and they will expunge the charges.
I think I do have to pay a $40 fee for (my) record, from the state police, and … pay $100 per charge, or they can waive that,” Jane said.
She said the meeting was beneficial, and that she hoped to get her record expunged within the next month.
T.J., 54, sat at a table with her longtime friend Jane, with whom she’d come to the meeting. She said while a DUI conviction from about 25 years ago hadn’t really affected her, “I don’t like it being there. I just don’t like it. I don’t like my name to have anything on it bad.”
She said just recently, she’d successfully applied for a part-time job, despite the DUI.
“He told me, ‘We’re going to give you this job, but you can’t touch any of the equipment or anything until we find out about how long it’s been and (the) clearing of it,’” T.J. said. “It just made me feel really bad to know that (the DUI conviction) was on there. I told them anyway. They were going to find out anyway.”
She said after the DUI, she never drove again after drinking alcohol.
“When I got pulled over, it was the worst thing ever that I could imagine…” T.J. said, then smiled as she said she was only behind the wheel of her own car that evening because her designated driver had also been drinking.
“It was a bad decision,” she said.
The following day, T.J. said what she learned at the expungement session was mostly a reminder of what she already knew she had to do.
“They way it was explained to me, I thought it was going to be a little bit different… I did learn that I could… go to Frankfort and get a public defender and… they would probably be able to wipe it off. And it would cost $100, and then I would just go there and they would set up a court date and then after I heard from them, I would just show up for the court date. So yeah, I learned a lot from it,” T.J. said.
She said her husband thought it was nonsense for her to worry about a 20-plus year-old misdemeanor conviction, then laughed and added, “But it’s not his record.”