UPDATE: These bills were signed into law by Governor Haslam on April 27, 2017.
Under current Tennessee law, young people who committed even non-violent, low-level offenses like truancy are unable to expunge their records until they are 18. This creates a barrier to education and work opportunities, even if they have learned their lesson and worked hard to stay out of trouble.
SB 1244/HB 577 and SB 1243/HB 578, both sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Michael Curcio, would collectively allow expungement of misdemeanor and unruly offenses a year after completion of probation, lower the age at which a juvenile may expunge their entire record from 18 to 17, and require judges to inform qualifying youth when they are eligible for expungement.
For 17-year-olds who are applying to schools, scholarship programs or jobs, having a criminal record can seriously harm their chances of being accepted or hired. These bills would increase young people’s access to educational and professional opportunities, helping them to become productive, taxpaying members of their communities.
This legislation would also help young Tennesseans — many of whom may not have the assistance of counsel or know that expungement is an option — navigate the complex maze of the criminal justice system and move on to the next chapter of their lives.
In addition, helping young people who have made mistakes wipe the slate clean and access education and jobs reduces recidivism, improving public safety.
TAKE ACTION: Urge lawmakers to make it easier for hard-working young people to get a second chance.
Sample Letter to Legislators
I am writing to urge your support of SB 1244.
By making it easier for young people who have made mistakes to expunge their records, this measure can make a real difference in their ability to get a fresh start and apply for jobs and educational opportunities without a record derailing the process.
In turn, improving access to education and jobs reduces recidivism, improving public safety and allowing young people in our state to become productive, taxpaying members of their communities.
Please support SB 1244 and remove some of the barriers to success for young people who are ready for a second chance. Thank you for your consideration.