Some members of the state Senate want to give convicted criminals a second chance. A bill passed the Senate’s Judiciary Committee Friday that would create the possibility of expungement for some non-violent felony crimes.
The bill would give an opportunity for the person convicted to file for expungement five years after completing his or her sentence. Supporters say only non-violent convictions would be considered, like drug crimes.
West Virginia currently has expungement options for misdemeanor crimes but not felonies.
Sen. Donald Cookman, D-Hampshire, who was a circuit judge before his appointment to the Senate, said a second chance should be provided in some cases.
“When someone is convicted of one offense how much is enough? How long do we punish that person? How long do we keep them being a responsible citizen? ” Cookman asked.
The person would have to petition the circuit court and prove to a circuit judge that they have been rehabilitated and are a law-abiding citizen.
The circuit judge would make the final decision but the convicted felon would have to meet what’s called an “enhanced burden of proof.”
“It has to go to the circuit court and it has to be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the person has changed and they are entitled to this relief,” Sen. Cookman said.
Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, told the committee in his former position as a police officer he arrested a man on a drug charge that he wishes he hadn’t.
“He immediately went to work, became a pillar of our community and there were days I couldn’t sleep. When I look back on the arrest, I ruined his life instead of counseling him,” Nohe said.
The bill (SB365) is now before the full Senate for consideration.