Dozens of Utahns lined up outside St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall in Salt Lake City on Thursday to take advantage of "Expungement Day." Salt Lake County’s new initiative helps some low-level offenders clear their criminal records at no cost.
In Utah, many people with criminal records qualify to have their records expunged. Usually it’s for things like old DUI’s, drug possession or shoplifting. Expunged records are sealed so employers and landlords can’t see them.
Nicki Spohn was a schoolteacher back in 2000 before she ended up with a felony drug conviction. Eighteen years later, she’s paid her debts, she’s sober and has a good job. But it hasn’t been easy with a criminal background.
“You know, I know I’ve lost jobs,” Spohn said. “I know that I’ve lost apartments that they haven’t rented to me.”
Criminal history can be a barrier for someone who’s trying to become self-reliant after a rough patch, and the expungement process is complicated and costly. That’s what kept Spohn from wiping her record sooner.
“I would have never done this,” Spohn said. “It just opens up so many opportunities. I could work at a hospital. I could work for the state. You know, there are so many different things that I could do.”
About 40 attorneys volunteered their time for the project, which was organized by the county and funded through private donations.