Manchin introduces legislation to give recovering addicts a clean start

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the Clean Start Act, which will give recovering addicts who committed nonviolent federal offenses because of their addictions a “clean start” and a chance to build a sober lifestyle, free of a criminal record, if they complete a yearlong drug treatment program.

“I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of opioid abuse on individuals, families, and communities in my state and around the country,” Manchin said. “As a direct result of their addiction, many otherwise law-abiding persons have committed nonviolent crimes that result in felony or misdemeanor convictions. Since many employers are unlikely to even consider a job applicant with a criminal record, the impact of a past conviction weighs upon these former addicts long after they have served their time. This all-too-common barrier to employment contributes to the continuing cycle of addiction and incarceration that has been so hard to break. This legislation will give people who wish to reform their lives a clean start and a chance to rejoin their communities.”

The Clean Start Act will allow people with a federal felony or misdemeanor conviction for a past nonviolent crime committed as a result of drug addiction an opportunity to have their criminal record sealed after undergoing comprehensive addiction treatment and demonstrating a commitment to their recovery. Specifically, this bill will authorize a person with a felony or misdemeanor conviction for a nonviolent crime to petition a federal court to seal the person’s criminal record if the person does two things:

  • Successfully completes a one-year substance abuse treatment program or recovery support program that is licensed or certified by a State or national accreditation body, including peer-driven and sober-living programs; and
  • Provides six months of service as a drug addiction recovery mentor. In the limited set of cases where service as a mentor is not practicable, six months of volunteer service will be required.

To ensure this opportunity is targeted towards those genuinely committed to their own recovery, a person may petition the court only one time to request sealing and must provide all necessary documentation that they have successfully completed the drug treatment program and provided the requisite mentorship service.  In considering the sealing petition, the reviewing court will take all relevant information into account, including any relevant information submitted by the original prosecutor.  Persons with criminal convictions for crimes of violence, crimes against children, and sex offenders are specifically excluded from the coverage of this measure.  The measure provides direct relief to persons with federal convictions and also includes incentives that encourage states to adopt comparable programs that allow record sealing for former addicts with state-level convictions for nonviolent crimes.