‘Second Chance’ Bill Passes in Reduced Form

Photo by Will Price, W.Va. Legislature
West Virginia Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, reviews information during a Senate floor session April 6.

Photo by Will Price, W.Va. Legislature West Virginia Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, reviews information during a Senate floor session April 6.

WHEELING — West Virginia Sen. Ryan Weld promises to bring back his “second chance bill” after a “watered down” version of the legislation passed in the closing moments of the legislative session this year.

Senate Bill 76 was legislation intended to give felons convicted of nonviolent crimes a better chance for future employment, according to Weld, R-Brooke. The original version passed by the Senate would have permitted ex-convicts to petition the court for expungement of the crime from their records one year after completing their sentence.

But the version passed by the Legislature just minutes before midnight Saturday includes changes made in the House that eliminate the opportunity for expungement.

Instead, a convicted felon can apply to have the charge changed to a misdemeanor conviction on their record after three years.

Those committing violent crimes, or felony crimes against children would not be eligible to apply.

Weld, who also serves as an assistant Brooke County prosecutor, supported the original Senate version of the bill, and had placed three amendments in it while in committee.

The first added the charge of soliciting minors for sex by computer to the list of crimes that wouldn’t be eligible for expungement. His second prohibited expungement for those pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit the crimes on the non-expungement list, while the third stated that expunged felons would not be eligible to receive their pension if the crime they committed was against their employer.

“It was changed dramatically to a watered-down version,” Weld said of the measure that passed the Legislature. “I was disappointed from my end. It passed the Senate 34-0. I offered amendments to include more felonies that were not expungeable. I thought we sent them a very good piece of legislation.”

As West Virginia continues to grapple with a drug addiction problem, Weld believes those who work to beat their addiction deserve a chance for employment and to lead productive lives.

“From my perspective, I’m going to get with the original sponsors and see if we can’t run it again next year and pass the House,” he said.

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