The Kansas Legislature made two significant improvements to expungement in 2022. Senate Bill SB 366 expanded opportunities for expungement.
The first big improvement is to allow persons with drug convictions to apply to be removed from the Kansas Offense Registry and have the drug conviction expunged at the same time. Kansas requires persons convicted of certain crimes to register in a public registry after their conviction. The Registry includes drug convictions, but it also includes sex and violent offenders . Once on the Registry, there is no longer a right to expungement. As marijuana is being legalized in states across the country, either for medicinal or recreational use, legislatures are recognizing that continuing to classify minor drug offenses with serious offenders is neither proportionate or helpful. Now, a person with a minor drug offense may file a petition with the court to both be removed from the registry and at the same time have the conviction expunged. The eligible offense are ones that have a three year waiting period from completion of sentence. For removal from the registry, however, the calculation begins upon sentencing and totals five years. If the applicant was not in compliance with requirements of the court or registry, the elapsed time for the five year calculation is suspended until the noncompliance is fixed. Since this option is so new, it would be good to seek the assistance of an attorney--through Kansas Legal Services or a private attorney--before applying.
For persons successfully completing a specialty court program, they will be able to seek expungement immediately upon completion. A specialty court is a court program that uses therapeutic or problem-solving procedures to address underlying factors that may be contributing to a party’s involvement in the criminal justice system, i.e., mental illness or drug, alcohol, or other addiction. Procedures may include treatment, mandatory periodic testing for a prohibited drug or other substance, community supervision, and appropriate sanctions and incentives. Kansas Supreme Court Rule 190 (a). Each Judicial District has the authority to set up specialty courts that fit their community's needs.
Expungement is in its nature improving people's lives. Specialty court and the rethinking of criminalization of minor drug offenses are a good match for expanding expungement opportunities. It is important to appreciate the work of the Kansas Legislature and the District Courts and their staffs to take people who need help out of the stigma of criminal convictions.