Under a bill currently in the state Senate people who commit class D-felonies could have their crimes converted to misdemeanors three years after conviction.
The legislation would allow offenders with non-violent, non-sex related D-felonies to apply to a judge for conversion to a class-A misdemeanor. That change means they could truthfully say they had not been convicted of a felony when applying for a job.
Brookville Republican Representative Jud McMillin, who authored the bill, says with unemployment still high, employers often use the felony question as a screener for applicants.
“They often do that without looking into what the actual felony was, and so if we can remove that barrier for those folks who are trying to get back to work when it’s appropriate, I think it would help those folks get jobs,” McMillin says.
Opponents of the bill say judges’ initial rulings should be respected. They have also raised concerns about the potential for courts to become overloaded with conversion requests. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Bedford Republican Brent Steele, says he does not share that concern.
“I’m not saying our courts aren’t busy,” he says. “I practice in the five counties around Lawrence County and I look at their schedule and I’m pretty familiar with it and I think they can find room. I don’t see them being that jammed up.”
The bill is up for a hearing in a Senate committee this week.