By Associated Press,
May 18th, 2012

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A legislative bill still on the governor’s desk is already drawing inquiries about getting criminal records cleared.

The Commercial Appeal reported the bill was expected to become law July 1. Gov. Bill Haslam’s office has given no indication that Haslam would veto it.

Under provisions of the bill, Tennessee residents convicted of single nonviolent crime in specific categories could have their records wiped clean for a $350 fee. They would have to have paid all restitution and penalties and had no other charges for five years.

Memphis state Rep. Karen Camper and state Sen. Reginald Tate — Democrat from Memphis— sponsored the measure.

Camper aide Rob Clark said the bill is aimed at people who have violated only once and want to clear their record.

“If you’ve had diversion or have other crimes on your record, you wouldn’t be eligible for this program,” Clark said. “This is not for career criminals; it’s for people who may have messed up once and are now trying to do the right thing and be a benefit to society.”

The bill passed both houses, but among the 10 Senate members who voted against it were Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.

“The public has a right to know who’s stealing cars in the community, and five years of no further criminal record is not long enough to guarantee reform of these felons,” Kelsey said.

Norris said the measure is too subjective about which crimes can be expunged.

“This seemed too broad,” Norris said. “And I felt it too risky for us to substitute our judgment for the judgment of law enforcement as to which crimes merit enforcement versus absolution.”

Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk Chief administrative officer Richard DeSaussure said his office has received several inquiries about the legislation.

“This has garnered quite a bit of interest,” DeSaussure said. “I’m anticipating that there will be initially a fair number of people to take advantage of this to clean up their records.”

DeSaussure said the biggest benefit of the bill is the requirement that the applicant be current on all fees. He called the amount of unpaid fines and fees “astronomical.”

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