Utah's Clean Slate law goes into effect, automatically clearing old and minor criminal records

In 2019, Utah lawmakers unanimously passed Utah’s Clean Slate law, which automatically clears old and minor criminal records of individuals who have remained crime free for a set period of time.

On February 10, 2022, Utah officially began automatic expungement and becomes the second state in the country to implement a Clean Slate law.

“We believe in the rule of law and that people should be held accountable when a law is broken. But we also believe in second chances,” said Governor Spencer Cox.

“Utah’s Clean Slate law is a common-sense policy that will help people find housing, get jobs and contribute back to their communities after paying their debt to society.”

Having a criminal record is more common than many people realize. More than one in four Utahns have some type of record and those records can create barriers to housing and jobs. 

Nearly 500,000 Utahns have been identified for automatic clearance so far. 

“For the Courts, this law is about access to justice, an issue we care deeply about,” said Ron Gordon, State Court Administrator. “We know that our legal systems have barriers and that many of our neediest Utahns require a lawyer to help them and cannot afford one.
“Criminal record expungement is one of these areas. Due to cost, the complicated process, lack of knowledge, and lack of legal representation, less than ten percent of people eligible to clear their records have made it through the process.

“Utah’s Clean Slate law changes this landscape completely.”

Utah’s Clean Slate law provides automatic record expungement for cases dismissed with prejudice and certain qualifying misdemeanor conviction records.

• Individuals must remain conviction-free for 5-7 years (depending on the level of the offense) in order to qualify.
• Covered offenses include misdemeanor A drug possession, most misdemeanor B and C level offenses, and all infractions.
• Utah’s Clean Slate law will not clear any felony records, domestic violence related offenses, sex offenses, simple assault, or DUI offenses. 
• Utah’s Clean Slate law has numerical limits, which means that some individuals will have too many total records to qualify for any automatic clearance.

The Utah Courts will first start to clear records of cases that have been dismissed or resulted in an acquittal. There are 218,000 records with over 800,000 combined cases that fall into these categories and will be automatically expunged.
These cases will not all be expunged at once. This will happen in batches over the coming months. 

“Clean Slate is a key step to rebuild our workforce and drive our economic recovery forward,” said Derek Miller, President & CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance.

“The smart policy of automating the expungement process will give thousands of deserving Utahns the second chances they deserve, while at the same time making our state a better place to live and work.

“It represents a common-sense solution for closing the justice and opportunity gaps – one that will further solidify our status as the best state for business.”

Code for America played a vital role in the effort to automate Utah’s Clean Slate law, as part of its national effort to make automatic record clearance the standard across the country.

Code for America, in partnership with the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts, created an algorithm to automatically identify all the conviction cases that were immediately eligible to be cleared and receive record clearance relief once the law took effect.

The Utah Courts are now adopting Code for America’s code and technical process to identify eligible conviction records on their own and continually clear records as the meet eligibility requirements. 

“The fundamental shift – moving from a petition-based process to an automatic process – will help Utah achieve record clearance equitably, expeditiously, and at scale,” said Meilani Santillan, Code for America’s Criminal Justice Program Director.

“We’re proud that because of our work, almost 500,000 people will receive conviction relief starting this month.

“A conviction should not be a life sentence to poverty, and this achievement will help tens of thousands of people in Utah have access to jobs, housing and other opportunities that they otherwise might be denied.”

Clean Slate Utah is a 501(c)(3) formed to help raise awareness of Utah’s Clean Slate law and educate the public about automatic record clearance. Its team can help by:

• Answering general questions about both petition-based and automatic expungement
• Connecting self-represented people to free legal resources
• Covering the cost of non-waivable BCI fees for those who qualify
• Determining if people qualify for free legal support through partnership with Rasa

For more information about Clean Slate Utah, visit www.cleanslateutah.org or https://vimeo.com/675665366.

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