Clean slate law goes into effect, giving Utahns a second chance at life
Utahns with old or minor criminal records can have their records cleared under the Clean Slate Law that went into effect Thursday.
State officials announced Utah is the second in the nation to begin the automatic expungement process. According to leaders, more than 1 in 4 Utahns have some type of record.
Three years ago, state lawmakers unanimously passed the legislation but it got delayed due to the pandemic. Already, nearly 500,000 Utahns have been identified as eligible for the process.
Under the law, people whose cases are dismissed with prejudice and certain qualifying misdemeanor conviction records will automatically be expunged if they remain crime free for five to seven years.
Eligible cases include class A misdemeanor drug possession offenses, most class B and C misdemeanor offenses, minor regulatory offenses, and infractions.
However the law would not clear felony records, domestic violence related offenses, sex offenses, simple assault, or DUI offenses.
State Court Administrator Ron Gordon said this will change the costly and complicated process that has been a barrier to justice.
“This law changes the landscape because it removes some of those barriers that contribute to [finding] housing and employment and other critical life,” Gordon said.
He said the process will happen in “batches over the coming months.” State officials said there are 218,000 records with over 800,000 combined cases that fall into these categories that will be automatically expunged.
Gordon said they have been working with Code for America to have this process occur.
Utah courts will first start to clear records of cases that have been dismissed or resulted in an acquittal.
“As [I have worked with lawmakers] on criminal justice issues together, these have always come to the forefront and that is what we believe in,” Gov. Spencer Cox said. “The rule of law and holding people accountable. And we believe in second chances.”
Amy Daeschel is a recovering substance user who had a small record. She shared her story of having a criminal record and the impact it's had on her life.
“I've had to continuously prove that I am more than my substance use disorder. I am not a victim. I take full ownership of my actions and my behaviors,” Daeschel said. “I have put in my time. I have complied with every court order and every requirement that has been placed upon me, and I have sustained over four and a half years of recovery. However, I cannot fully integrate into society because of my perpetual record.”
She said the new law will be essential for people to reintegrate into society.
“Rehabilitation reaches so far beyond just being sober, clean slate bridges that gap between rehabilitation and reintegration,” she said. “If we only provide a way of sobriety and further enforce the barriers to prevent reclamation, can we really ask why individuals recidivate?”
The clean slate law also has numerical limits that disqualifies individuals who have too many total records for any automatic clearance.