NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A class project could lead to a new law in the Commonwealth. At least, that’s what some college students in Norfolk are hoping.
Professor Robert Williams, of Tidewater Community College, said his political science students goal was to create a plan to affect change in the community. And that idea has turned into a House Bill making its way through the General Assembly.
“If we can get this bill to the Governor’s desk so he can sign it, it would be something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” Williams said.
House Bill 1442 would keep people from having to pay for crimes they were accused of, after a judge finds that they weren’t at fault.
“It’s pretty much unfair to have people have to pay to clear their good name, if they hadn’t been convicted,” Williams said. “Even when they apply for jobs, on the application it might say ‘please list your convictions,’ but your whole entire arrest record comes up whether you were convicted or not.”
The students were outraged that people could have crimes they didn’t commit haunt them for years just because they don’t have the money to pay to make them go away. Once they created the bill to eradicate expunging fees, they had to find a lawmaker to carry it through.
“It’s been amazing,” Williams said. “The students have really grabbed the spirit of activism, and they’re really concerned how far we can go.”
Delegate Lionell Spruill, who represents parts of Chesapeake and Suffolk, saw promise in the class’ plan, and sponsored the bill. He said that aside from the $110,000 it may cost the state in lost circuit court fees, he’s optimistic. He gave WAVY.com this statement Thursday:
I feel real good about it. Everyone’s very clear on it. If you spread that money across the commonwealth it’s not a lot of money. I’m hoping it’s not enough money to say no. I want them to see how the process works. That it’s not just talk.
House Bill 1442 has been approved by a court committee and now goes before the Appropriations Committee. Delegate Spruill said he’s hoping to have Professor Williams class travel to Richmond, if the bill goes all the way. WAVY.com will certainly update you on its progress.