Mayor announces new fundraiser as legislature lowers record expungement fees

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The state legislature voted near the end of the session to reduce most record expungement fees from $450 to $180. Mayor Jim Strickland announced Wednesday he planned to raise funds to continue helping people expunge their records.

"The people we've helped have told me how important it was to them to wipe this off their record,” he said.

He said expungement was important to help people get jobs and also boost their self-esteem.

State Rep. Raumesh Akbari sponsored the bill.

“When I started campaigning in 2013, a lot of people couldn’t vote because they hadn’t expunged their record. They weren’t aware of the process to vote and to get back to work. They felt the cost was too expensive," she said.

It's unclear how many people in Memphis are eligible for record expungement, but District Attorney Amy Weirich said it’s for anyone who served a sentence for a nonviolent crime more than five years ago.

You can check here to find out if you qualify.

"These are hardworking members of our community who had a bad day and broke the law. They made some bad decisions. They had been punished for that, paid their debt to society and wanted their record clear," Weirich said.

But advocates said there was still work to do since the new law wouldn't lower the fee for expunging records involving diversion programs.

“What we hope to do next session is go back and get even more comprehensive reform," said Josh Spickler with Just City.

Strickland said the Speer Charitable Trust has agreed to match up to $25,000 in donations to a fund to help pay the fines. Strickland announced a fundraiser from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on June 5 at the Hattiloo Theatre.