Utah lawmakers pass the ‘clean slate’ bill to automatically clear the criminal records of people who earn an expungement

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Utah is poised to become the second state in the nation to adopt an automatic system that will eventually wipe out the criminal records of people convicted of certain low-level crimes.

HB431 creates an automatic expungement process to delete criminal records for those who qualify and have stayed out of trouble.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, dubbed it “one of the most important bills that no one is talking about” when he presented it on the Senate floor Wednesday before lawmakers gave the bill a final, unanimous vote. The legislation now moves to Gov. Gary Herbert for consideration.

The bill automates a process that’s already in place for Utahns. But currently, an expungment can be lengthy and confusing — and few take advantage of it. Salt Lake County officials say there’s a backlog of applications, so some wait up to six months just to see if they qualify for an expungement.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, will automate that process.

“If you do everything you’re asked to do, and jump through all the hoops, there ought to be a mechanism that allows you to get your life back on track,” Hutchings said.

The legislation does not change the eligibility criteria for expungements. It covers mostly low-level crimes, and does not allow expungements for felonies, DUIs, or violent misdemeanors like domestic violence or sexual battery. A person must be crime-free for five years for a class C misdemeanor, six years for a class B misdemeanor and seven years for drug possession — the only class A misdemeanor that is eligible for expungement.

Having a criminal record can affect someone’s ability to get a job and can limit housing opportunities, so people often seek expungements to give them a fresh start after a minor conviction.

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