Attorney General Beshear Appeals Expungement Made Under New State Law

May 2, 2017

Credit Andy Beshear, Official Photo

Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office has appealed a judge’s ruling that wiped decades-old convictions from a Kentuckian’s criminal record, arguing they aren’t eligible under the state’s new felony expungement law.

The case hinges on whether crimes committed over a series of days are considered to be part of the same “incident” and are thus all eligible for expungement.

The new law allows people to have certain class D felonies cleared if — after completing their sentences — they stay out of trouble for five years and pay a $500 fee.

After the law took effect last July, Lexington resident Dennis Vowels applied for an expungement of five theft and burglary convictions, all felonies, that took place over four days in 1978 when he was a 19-year-old in Owensboro.

Daviess Circuit Court Judge Joe Castlen granted the request in October, recognizing that the ruling would likely be appealed and a higher court would give a “more definitive answer.”

“I’d rather construe the provisions more liberally than conservatively to effect the purpose of the statute,” Castlen said during his ruling from the bench last year.

But in a brief filed with the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Beshear’s office argued the convictions aren’t eligible because they took place over a series of days.

“Vowels’ five charges were based on five different incidents,” assistant attorney general Emily Bedelle Lucas wrote. “They occurred on different days, they were against different victims, and they involved different property.”

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