New app streamlines what Utahns go through to expunge criminal records
Utahns unable to have their criminal record automatically cleared under the state’s “clean slate law” may still be eligible for a fresh start.
A new web application launched Wednesday by Utah-based tech company Rasa Legal informs residents if they qualify to have their records removed from the state’s criminal justice system –– even if they have a felony charge.
In 2019, Utah lawmakers unanimously passed the “clean slate law,” which automatically erased some misdemeanor offenses under certain conditions. The law went into effect in February of this year, and nearly 50,000 people became eligible for expungement.
“When we help people expunge their records, it's good for public safety, it's good for our economy and it's good for people,” said Noella Sudbury, founder and CEO of Rasa Legal. “We help people access better housing and job opportunities. We help them rebuild their confidence, provide support for their children and achieve their own goals.”
More than 1 in 4 Utahns have some type of criminal record, according to Utah Courts.
Ken Wallentine, the chief of police in West Jordan and president of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, said he was a big advocate of the clean slate legislation. Throughout the 40 years he’s been involved in law enforcement, Wallentine said he’s interacted with hundreds of people who could benefit from the law.
“I've personally seen folks who couldn't get a job, who couldn't get an apartment, who were disqualified from those basic services because they've got a criminal conviction for something, which is more often than not, just represented a simple mistake,” he said.
Now, with the law in place and resources like Rasa available to those who need it, Wallentine said it’s “one of the most exciting moments” in his career because it helps people “on the pathway to redemption, to forgiveness, and to creating a new life for themselves.”
In under three minutes, Rasa’s app (which is only accessible online ––– it’s not a downloadable phone app) lets users know their criminal record, if it’s eligible for expungement and what steps they need to take to clear it.
All a user has to do is create an account, answer a series of questions related to eligibility under the law and the software will pull up the criminal record and outline what charges can be expunged, what charges will soon be permitted for expungement and if a petition process is needed to complete expungement. If a charge isn’t eligible, the app will let the user know their options, which may include an offense reduction.
Individuals still involved in the criminal justice system, like those on probation, for example, are not eligible for expungement.
The company also cuts through red tape by doing legal work at a significantly reduced cost.
The app requires a one-time fee of $15 that shows an individual’s entire criminal record and if any are eligible for expungement. If a record is up for expungement, Rasa can legally represent that client for a flat rate of $500. That price tag covers up to three records.
Rasa has partnered with Clean Slate Utah to make the app free for those who are below the federal poverty line.
Destiny Garcia, executive director of Clean Slate Utah, a nonprofit organization working to clear criminal records, personally knows what it’s like to live with charges to her name and the effort it took to get rid of them.
“The first time around with my expungement, the cost was $3,600 and it took months and months and months,” Garcia said. “I had to deliver all my certificates to each and every court myself. It was a huge process because I was doing it on my own.”
She didn’t relive that experience with Rasa. Through its legal services, Garcia paid $500 and her two additional charges were gone in two months' time.
Prior to clearing her record, Garcia struggled to find employment and housing. Soon after her record vanished, everything changed.
“I was able to get a great job, able to get a promotion. I am now a homeowner because I can make enough money to buy my own home. I support my children, I pay my bills. I'm not on government assistance,” she said. “And all of that is thanks to getting my record cleared.”