People sitting at tables with lawyers helping them.
Kansas Legal Services has held previous legal clinics to help expunge criminal records. (Courtesy image/Kansas Legal Services)

Kansas Legal Services and the Wichita Bar Association are offering potentially free help to people who want to be removed from the state’s drug registry, but to participate you must sign up by Jan. 27, then attend an in-person clinic on Feb. 3. 

Created in 2007, Kansas’ drug offender registry is built into the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s (KBI) overall registry of “offenders” as defined by Kansas law. This includes sex offenders, violent offenders, most drug offenders and any offender required to register out of state or by court order. 

Kansas is only one of five states to have a drug registry of any kind. But it has the most reach of any drug registry. In Kansas, anyone convicted of manufacturing, distributing or possessing drugs (excluding marijuana) with the intent to distribute is required to be on the registry. 

Last year, KBI reported 5,964 Kansans were listed on the offender registry for drug-related crimes. Of those, 3,556 have been on it for more than five years. 

A way off the list

Marilyn Harp of Kansas Legal Services in Wichita is helping lead their effort to remove people from the registry. She explained that once someone is on the registry, there are requirements that make rehabilitation hard. 

“For one, it’s the public identification,” Harp said. If you’re on the registry, anyone can look up your name and find you listed as a felon. Your name will also be used in geographical searches through KBI. This can cause strain on professional and personal relationships.

The other disruptive part is registration and its associated costs. Anyone on the registry must visit a local county sheriff’s office four times a year, once in their birth month and every three months after. They also have to reregister every time they move, get a new job, get a new vehicle or get a tattoo. Every time a person reregisters, they have to get a new photo and pay $20. 

“Before May of 2022, there were two possibilities: You get put on it for 15 years, or for life,” Harp said. 

Thanks to a law passed last year, there is now a process for getting your name removed from the drug registry. Under Senate Bill 366, those who have been in compliance for a minimum of five years may petition to be removed. 

Where to find help

Now, until Jan 27, anyone who meets the requirements can sign up to be helped by Kansas Legal Services. A filing cost of $196 may be required, but fee waivers are available for individuals at or below the federal poverty line. Kansas Legal Services will help applicants through the fee waiver process. 

“I suspect that there are people on the registry who don’t even know this law has been passed to help give them a path off,” Harp said. 

To be removed, the offender must show by clear evidence that:

  • The offender has not been convicted of a felony (other than a felony registration violation) within the  last five years. 
  • No proceedings involving a felony are now pending or being instituted against the offender.
  • The offender’s circumstances, behavior and treatment history demonstrate that the offender is rehabilitated.
  • Registration of the offender is no longer necessary to promote public safety.

To get help from Kansas Legal Services, call 800-723-6953 during their business hours Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. You must be able to attend the clinic on Feb 3. The clinic’s location will be given after signing up. 

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Trace Salzbrenner is a community journalist for The Wichita Beacon. Follow him on Twitter @RealTraceAlan.