Utah Clean Slate Act: Minor Criminal Records Will Be Automatically Erased

Three years after the Utah Legislature passed a “Clean Slate” law, many will now begin to see minor criminal offenses automatically erased from their records.

Amy Daeschel, with Utah Naloxone, recalled the long process she faced trying to reintegrate into society after petty drug offenses.

A piece of paper – the criminal record – does not show “the individual gets up at 5:30 a.m. every morning”, travels to get to treatment on time, or accepts a $9/hour job “because it is anything he may have a criminal record despite their work history, Daeschel said at a Capitol press conference celebrating the new program Thursday.

She said the document also does not show how a person attended drug court every Wednesday for more than a year, or complied with their court orders and probation.

“What this piece of paper doesn’t show you are the 12 housing applications this individual has submitted, all to be refused, and to find housing of their own,” she said.

Amy Daeschel, who will be eligible for automatic deletion, speaks at a press conference to announce the start of automatic deletion of records, under Utah’s clean slate law, at the Capitol of Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“How much time has passed?” … Did he try hard enough? Finally, what you don’t see is this individual who combines a full-time job with a part-time job, in addition to being a full-time employee studying to pursue a master’s degree … knowing all the time that when ‘they graduate, they’ll have to deal with this almighty piece of paper,’ Daeschel added.

The Clean Slate program will now “bridge that gap” and help people like her reintegrate into society, she said.

Utah State Court Administrator Ron Gordon said the law “changes the landscape because it removes some of these barriers that contribute to housing barriers.”

The Utah Courts IT team has developed an algorithm that automatically identifies court cases eligible for expungement.

“To someone like me, that sounds like magic, but it’s not. It’s literally thousands and thousands of hours of work,” Gordon said.

The system has identified nearly 500,000 people who can begin the process of expunging their records, starting with cases that were dismissed and resulted in acquittals, he said. Radiation will not happen all at once, but over time.

Governor Spencer Cox said state leaders “are so excited now that (the law) will be fully implemented,” making Utah the second state in the nation with such a law.

Pennsylvania is the first.

“We believe in the rule of law and in empowering people, and we believe in second chances,” Cox said.

Once someone has paid their debt to society, the “stain can be so debilitating” that it is difficult to find a job and leads to recidivism. Not to mention petty crimes, which are “much more common than people realize,” the governor noted.

Jess Anderson, commissioner with the Utah Department of Public Safety, said the expungement removes all criminal history from state and federal records.

While that may sound “scary” to some, who think more serious crimes could be automatically erased, Anderson said, Utah law requires a certain amount of time to pass before a recording can be erased. . Anyone who has committed a Class C misdemeanor must wait five years; Class B misdemeanors require six years to be expunged; and Class A misdemeanors require seven years.

Felonies, violent offenses, drunken driving or sexual offenses are not eligible for automatic clearances, Anderson said, nor can those with lengthy criminal records have them expunged through a petition or an automatic authorization.

Research shows that removing criminal records is good for public safety, Anderson said.

“As people get back on their feet, have the opportunity to find a job, have the opportunity to move forward in their lives, have the opportunity to stay out of trouble with the law,” he added.

Salt Lake Chamber President Derek Miller said the law will improve upward mobility in the state and connect employers to more employees.

It will help companies “by tapping into a large pool of underutilized and skilled talent,” he said, adding that the process also saves taxpayers’ money, reducing the need for government support. for those whose records are erased.

Miller encouraged “all businesses of all sizes” to educate their employees about automatically deleting records, to “maximize redemptive benefits” for the workforce.

Former state Rep. Eric Hutchings, who sponsored the Clean Slate bill in 2019, noted problems with the criminal justice system over the years.

“When we catch you, we’ll beat you…and we’ll use that stick for the rest of your life,” he said of the system. “That’s not who we want to be, that’s not who we are.”

Noella Sudbury, executive director of Clean Slate Utah, said her organization can help anyone interested in delisting by answering general questions about automatic deletion of records based on petitions. She urged people to follow the organization on social media. More information can be found at cleanslateutah.org.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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