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Memphis mayor seeks to help people clear expungement fee hurdle

Expungement of a conviction or sealing of a record is a handy legal tool if you can take advantage of it. Tennessee, like many states, has laws that allow for individuals with certain convictions to expunge information from their records.

But the conditions under which the strategy can be used are pretty limited. It cannot be used once you have a conviction for drunk driving on your record. That being so, and because that record could get in the way of you achieving what you want with your life, it's clear that anyone accused of driving under the influence needs to speak with an experienced attorney early on to determine how best to respond.

Even in the few situations in which expungement of records can be sought, it isn't always easy to complete. The petitioner can't even begin the process until five years after the last requirements of his or her sentence has been met. Then, they have to pay a fee of $450.

That might not seem like a significant hurdle, but very often it is. In fact, in Memphis, there are about 100 people known to qualify for expungement but who can't pay the fee. As a result they face an uphill climb.

In recognition of that challenge and to try to help get people with records for minor crimes back into the workforce, the mayor of Memphis has launched an Expungement Fee Fundraising effort. In the first event earlier this month, the Better Memphis Fund managed to raise $55,000 for the cause.

At the same time, there are efforts underway at the legislature to reduce the fee or perhaps do away with it altogether. Whether the efforts succeed appear to hinge on coming up with a way to make up for the revenue that would be lost by reducing the fee.

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