Bipartisan bill supports modified criteria for crime expungement

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has revived a proposal to change Wisconsin’s criteria for wiping past criminal past convictions from public view, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.  

Expungement can currently be requested only if the crime was committed by an individual under the age of 25; a bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. David Steffen would remove that age requirement. Certain crimes, however, would be ineligible for expungement, including stalking, violation of a domestic abuse restraining order, criminal trespassing, criminal damage to a business, and tragic offenses. 

Applications for expungement would only be allowed when at least a year has passed following the completion of a sentence, including community supervision and the payment of court fees and restitution. Additionally, expungement would only be possible for crimes other than violent felonies and would require no past felony convictions, as the law currently specifies. 

Under the new bill, expungement could not be used as grounds for denying a person employment or disqualification from professional licensing. The proposed changes would also allow a judge to make the decision on expungement once a sentence has been served, rather than at the time of sentencing.  

Supporters of the proposal include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Wisconsin State Public Defender, the Badger Institute, and employer groups like Wisconsin Independent Businesses. Previous versions of the proposal have cleared the state Assembly but faced opposition in the Senate.