Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Congressman Cohen Introduces Fresh Start Act

February 15, 2018
Press Release
Bill would give non-violent offenders real, meaningful chances to start over

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today introduced the Fresh Start Act, a bill that would enable certain non-violent ex-federal offenders who have served their sentences and are now law-abiding, productive members of society to have their convictions expunged from their records.

“Even if ex-offenders were not violent, they could very well face a life sentence,” said Congressman Cohen.  “The stigma of their conviction often follows them for the rest of their life. Employment, education and housing opportunities—the basic things necessary to turn a life around—can all be denied because of a past conviction. My bill would give non-violent ex-offenders—who have paid their debt to society and have done everything asked of them to become responsible and productive—real, meaningful chances to start over again and contribute more fully to society.”

Under the Fresh Start Act, qualifying ex-offenders would be eligible to apply to a federal court to have their convictions expunged from their records if they have not committed any other state or federal offenses and have met all the terms of their sentences. The U.S. Attorney would be allowed to submit recommendations to the court.  Applicants who are denied could reapply for expungement once every two years.  After seven years have elapsed since an ex-offender has completed his or her sentence, expungement would be automatically granted.  Under the bill, sex offenders and those who commit property crimes or financial crimes worth more than $25,000 would not be eligible.

Finally, the bill would also encourage states to pass their own expungement laws for ex-state offenses.  States that pass a substantially similar law would receive a five percent increase in federal funding for local law enforcement purposes via the Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant Program, while those that do not would lose five percent of those funds.