If Missouri is Serious About Second Chances, Lawmakers Must Find A Path To Help People With Low-Level Crimes On Their Record Get A Clean Slate

My name is Scott Quirmbach and Clean Slate legislation would change my life.  

In 1994, when I was 18 years old, I moved to Warrensburg, Missouri. I was a young man looking for independence halfway across the country from home. I quickly found a group of new people to be around. They enjoyed drinking alcohol, and I joined in whenever I could. One afternoon, those friends and I drank too much at a bar in town. A couple of guys and I started walking home, inebriated. Then, I saw two bicycles sitting in front of someone’s house. All I could think was, ‘we don’t have to walk anymore.’ I was stopped by police just a few yards away and accepted a plea deal for a suspended sentence. A friend I was with had the income to hire counsel, who got his charges dropped or reduced significantly. 

This decision at 18 years old is one that would plague me for the rest of my life, one that I could not possibly have understood the implications of at that age. Over the next almost five years, I worked a full-time job and supported myself. I completed 400 hours of community service and paid over $4000 in restitution. The suspended sentence followed me, and two months before the end of the agreed upon 5 years, I had a dirty UA for Marijuana. Because that was a violation, they revoked the suspended sentence and gave me a new three year sentence for the Class C Felony of stealing. I should explain that at the time of the crime, a Class C felony was for anything over $50, and the bike was valued at $100. That law had been changed while I was on the suspended sentence, to a $500 value. It was not applied retroactively. I went to St. Joseph Correctional Center for 7 months before being released on parole in July of 2000 for the rest of the three-year sentence. I successfully completed the parole in December of 2003 and have not been in legal trouble since.

All of this has caused me great difficulty in my life now. I am currently employed with a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities. I’ve worked here for 11 years, and I have had to write an explanation to three different HR managers over the course of my career. While I am happy and fortunate working where I do, the felony on my record has greatly impacted the choices I had in my career. There are many paths which are closed to me, specifically finance. I am a numbers and data person at heart but couldn’t even consider that field because of my history. I have struggled to secure housing with a felony conviction on my record, paying higher rent for substandard homes. 

People just hear the word ‘felon’ and do not want to listen anymore. Even considering the circumstances and the fact that the crime happened over 25 years ago. The stigma has impacted not just me, but my kids. I’m raising two girls. I dream of a day when I don’t have to explain to a police officer who pulled me over that I committed a felony 25 years ago – “but wait it was for a bike…”

The current expungement process is confusing, expensive, and time consuming. Anything to make that easier would greatly improve my life. I don’t deny that I made a mistake as a drunken teen, I have more than paid for that crime. My record has kept me stuck, when I’ve fought hard to be able to move forward in life. Clean Slate legislation would make it easier for people like me to move past old mistakes, and would free up opportunities for my daughters. 

In Solidarity, 

Scott Quirmbach

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