H.R.5492 -- Fresh Start Act of 2010 (Introduced in House - IH)

To permit expungement of records of certain nonviolent criminal offenses, and for other purposes.

Rep Steve Cohen [TN 9th] introduced H.R. 5492 'Fresh Start Act of 2010' on June 9th, 2010 (link to full text: TEXT LINK: ) and guess what: This bill would provide for the possibility of expungement of certain criminal records in limited circumstances and ONLY nonviolent, first time, offenders by adding a new subchapter to Chapter 229 of title 18, United States Code providing for the possibility of expungement. These requirements are so simple that the average offender could apply with little or no legal help. The benefits that can be derived by passing this bill will have a far-reaching effect. Sound familiar? It should, but with a few key differences; Rep. Steve Cohen is on the sub committee on crime and terrorism, the right place for where this bill will ultimately end up. It already has 14 cosponsors, and one of them is Rep Charles B. Rangel (tells you where he thinks H.R. 1529 is headed). H.R. 5492 was referred to the House Judiciary on June 9th, 2010 (Link to status of H.R. 5492  LINK: ). On July 26th, 2010 it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.  The wording in this bill is almost identical but with better backing it has a better chance. REMEMBER WHEN THIS SESSION ENDS THIS BILL DIES SO EVERY EFFORT NEEDS TO BE APPLIED TO BACK IT AND HELP PUSH IT THROUGH.


I was looking at an article on MSNBC and On December 28th, 2010 President Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and praised him for giving Michael Vick a second chance. According to an interview with NBC’s Peter King; Lurie told him “the president was passionate about the fact that it’s rarely a level playing field for prisoners once they leave jail," "And he said the message was, what the Eagles had done with Vick was important for society ... giving him a second chance.”

Now I don’t know about you but this tells me the president is not paying attention to legislation that is trying to be passed. Where is he when there is a bill out in limbo that could potentially help thousands of disenfranchised American citizens to get their “Second Chance”? If he feels that strongly about Vick perhaps he could direct some of that energy towards helping the average American! It’s about time to start another letter writing campaign directly to the President about this reminding him not everyone is as lucky as Michael Vick, but everyone deserves a second chance!


 NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT AND DO SO QUICKLY. The only chance for this Bill to fly is NOW! Soon the control needed to make this work will no longer be in place. It doesn’t matter if you support Congressman Rangel because this is not his bill. The plain and simple truth is this Bill will have a positive impact on you, or your friends, or your family, most certainly on our country. It will improve the lives of thousands of deserving Americans who, unfortunately, made a mistake. These people, like everyone else, deserve a second chance. 

Me, you, your family, your friends, your relatives all need to get on board and contact our representatives (use this link, pull down your state and add your zip code in the window (Plus 4 not required)  REPRESENTATIVE LINK) A sample form letter is posted at the bottom of this page.


As I see it there are three logical steps to making this bill a reality;

Step 1: In order for this to get the proper notice the bill needs cosponsors. The only way for that to happen is to get in contact with your representative and tell them how important it is to YOU. A sample form letter is posted at the bottom of this page below the hit counter.

Step 2: (This one is the most important but you can't get there without step 1) This bill must move out of the subcommittee to be voted on. Contact points are listed below. You can use the same format in the letter at the bottom of the page for this.

Subcommittee on Crime Terrorism, and Homeland Security Membership

(links to individual committee members provided on the following page: ( COMMITTEE MEMBER LINK ) 


Hon. Scott, Chairman, Virginia (3rd)

Hon. Pierluisi, Puerto Rico, Resident Commissioner

Hon. Nadler, New York (8th)

Hon. Lofgren, California (16th)

Hon. Jackson Lee, Texas (18th)

Hon. Waters, California (35th)

Hon. Cohen, Tennessee (9th)

Hon. Weiner, New York (9th)

Hon. Wasserman Schultz, Florida (20th)

Hon. Quigley, Illinois (5th)


Hon. Gohmert, Ranking Member, Texas (1st)

Hon. Poe, Texas (2nd)

Hon. Goodlatte, Virginia (6th)

Hon. Lungren, California (3rd)

Hon. Forbes, Virginia (4th

Hon. Rooney, Florida (16th)

Please note, here is a link to the list of  HEARINGS SCHEDULES if you click on it you will note H.R. 5492 is not listed!!!

Step 3: When it makes it to the floor it must be voted on. Here again is where prodding of your representative is required to vote in favor. Again the contacts are listed above and below.

A few dozen people calling will not have the desired result. The only thing people in Washington understand is numbers. Perhaps one of the best ways to get this to them with the numbers is a petition drive. Get out there to your local gathering place (like the Mall, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc.) with a blank petition (sample soon to be posted below the sample letter). It would be good if you had someone who could explain the bill, and a copy of it, so people can see the actual wording. PLEASE MAKE SURE ALL THE SIGNATURES ARE LEGITIMATE.

Without the proper support of the people it will do what it always does and FAIL! Please contact everyone you know to prevent this from happening. It is too important to too many people, to our country, and to our way of life. Help give people the second chance they deserve.

Other links to new or existing supporting sites:




How can you help?

We need everyone involved and their friends and families to contact the chairman of the Judiciary, their representatives on the Judiciary committee, every organization listed below, and any other person or organization that can help push this bill into reality.

As it stands the bill is in the hands of the Judiciary. Since it is not on their schedule, it would appear they have no intention of reviewing it. No action on their part assures the bill will fail. It must be considered in order to be returned to the House for review.

Sufficient public interest can move mountains. In this case, enough people and organizations need to contact the Chairman of the Judiciary committee (Link to contact site) to convince him there is a cause for action. 

Who to Ask for support and/or help

The Judiciary committee Chairman is Hon. John Conyers, Jr.  (D) Michigan 14th info provided on the Judiciary site and he has his own web site with a direct email link  a how to contact page complete with physical addresses and phone numbers in DC and Wisconsin. 
There are 16 Republicans and 24 Democrats on the Judiciary committee. The list is contained here with each members name being a link to their own page. Keep in mind members from their states and districts wit get the majority of responses.
Link to determine representative:
Link to member information with contact data:
Sites to recruit for support:
American Center for Law and Justice
Institute for Justice

Landmark Legal foundation
Legal committee on civil rights
Congress of Racial Equality
Sentencing Project
Southern Poverty Law Center
American Bar Association
 USA Next

Legal Action Center




Links to various organizations:


The Orator
Black Voter Network


For More information on how you can help pass this Bill contact


If you have additional information or links to pass on please contact our webmaster


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The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re: H.  R.  5492


Fresh Start Act of 2010

Dear Representative ----------------:

I would like to draw your attention to H. R. 5492, a Bill designed to provide relief for first time nonviolent Federal offenders by creating a possibility for expungement of their criminal records. This Bill would boost our economy, while assisting thousands of Americans, allowing them to get their lives back, gain meaningful employment, and become productive members of society once again. While some State courts already allow for this type of relief, the Federal system does not.  

At this moment H. R. 5492 sits in the House Judiciary Subcommittee. 

I believe criminals should be punished, but I also believe in fairness. First time nonviolent offenders should have an opportunity to get their lives back once they have paid their required debt to society. As it stands, no one with a single Federal felony conviction can.

[Insert here a short personal statement on how this has affected you, i.e., I have a degree in ___ and am unable to work in this field due to my felony conviction. If this Bill were passed I could obtain meaningful employment in support of my community and of my family]

I ask for your support in moving this Bill forward so it can be voted on in a proper manner. I know there is not enough time for everything, but there should be for something as important and sensible as this is to a productive citizenry.

If there is anything I can do to help get it passed please let me know.






(Phone number)

(email address)


Below is a letter written by an attorney who has been working on the passage of this legislation for years. It is intended to be personalized and sent to each member of congress (both Democrats and Republicans). Everyone reading this has an attorney or a friend or family member who has one but each attorney has additional clients and associates who could benefit from its passage. Get your attorneys involved in the process, it will add to the attention and pressure needed to get this passed.   




369 North Main Street

Memphis, Tennessee


Telephone 901-834-8911

Fax 901-527-5003



October 6, 2010



The Honorable

Fax #



Re: H. R. 5492--”Fresh Start Act of 2010”



Dear Congressman (or Congresswoman) :



I am a former prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer with 36 years of trial and practical experience in the civil and criminal justice systems as well as in government and business. The purpose of this letter is to respectfully ask for your support of H. R 5492. This legislation allows certain one-time, nonviolent offenders to eventually obtain expungement of a criminal record, but only after maintaining a long-term clean record and after completing all terms and conditions of their sentence (including payment of full restitution).

A single federal conviction can forever disable an individual from obtaining employment or societal advancement. Please see, Mouzon, “Forgive us our Trespasses: The Need for Federal Expungement Legislation”, at HeinOnLine, 39 U. Mem. L, Rev.1 2008-2009. As a practical matter, permanent “criminalization” of one-time, nonviolent offenders/citizens results in a lifetime sentence - with disabilities forever affecting employment opportunities and social standing (not to mention other normal rights of citizenship).

This should not be a partisan issue! The proposed legislation is consistent with “fiscal conservatism”, improving both individual and national productivity. Also, supporting such sensible legislation is not being “soft on crime”. An individual who makes one mistake, then completely pays his (or her) debt to society, should not be permanently branded and thereby prevented from leading a productive life.

 As a lawyer, I am frequently asked by citizens, seeking advancement in private employment or military service, how they can clear their record of an ancient one-time, nonviolent indiscretion. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to accomplish this with regard to a federal conviction (although a number of states have begun to see the light and have enacted state statutes similar to this proposed federal legislation).

Aside from the eminent good sense of such legislation promoting restitution and rehabilitation, I firmly believe that the economic impact would be hugely favorable. There are many potentially productive individuals in this country who are currently being denied employment and other opportunities for advancement based upon a single fully satisfied, but still recorded, criminal conviction.

If you have not already done so, please consider joining as a cosponsor of this legislation.


Sincerely yours,



James R. Garts, Jr.