Misdemeanor, low-level offenders could get a 'clean slate' under proposed bill

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A new proposed bill unveiled in Hartford Wednesday could clear most misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions of formerly incarcerated individuals after seven years.

Sen. Gary Winfield presented his bill to lawmakers today. His plan would provide relief to nearly four times as many people as the one offered by Gov. Ned Lamont.

Gov. Lamont's bill, which was presented last year, and the senator's proposal both tentatively require people to remain conviction-free for seven years to be eligible for automatic erasure.

Top Democrats say the change would stop punishing people years after they have served their time.

"Many of us have either said or heard that 'if you do the crime, you do the time.' And yet, we don't function that way as a society,” said state Sen. Gary Winfield.

The change could erase 25,000 criminal records. Dwayne Paul, of the Collaborative Center for Justice, says the Clean Slate bill will “boost the state economy by providing greater access to higher education and to well-paying jobs."

Sen. Winfield's plan would also expunge a wider array of crimes than Gov. Lamont's proposed bill. Gov. Lamont's bill would only apply to low-level misdemeanors, but Sen. Winfield's bill would include all misdemeanors except those related to family violence, and class C, D and E felonies, which are crimes like second-degree larceny, assault, and carrying a dangerous weapon.

Felonies would be subject to "provisional erasure," which means law enforcement could see the convictions for several years before they completely disappear.

Landlords fiercely oppose the idea because they say not knowing a potential tenant's criminal history puts their safety at risk.

Supporters say they are drafting the legislation and more details still need to be worked out.

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