SB 62: Easing Eligibility on Expungements
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Criminal justice reform includes more than just fixing the process before prosecution, in court, or during a prison sentence. Often people forget what happens to ex-convicts once they leave prison and how hard it can be to fully integrate back into society, even after paying their dues.
Expungement is one such process that can be life-changing for ex-convicts who have kept their lives on track and want to continue to progress in society. Expungement allows for the records and proceedings of a criminal conviction to be sealed from public record. This allows an ex-convict to then be allowed to answer questions like “Have you ever been arrested?” or “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” with a simple “no” (assuming that there are no other convictions or violations on record). In brief, expungement is one of many tools our justice system can use to reduce recidivism.
The state of Utah currently allows people to apply for expungement under very limited circumstances. For example, alcohol-related traffic offenses, certain types of felonies, and misdemeanors can be expunged if the ex-convict has paid all fines, fees, restitution, interest and a certain amount of years have elapsed without any other arrests, convictions, or infractions since the person was incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.
Senate Bill 62, sponsored by Senator Todd Weiler, relaxes the current law to make it somewhat easier to become eligible for expungement, not only for prior offenses, but for a prior arrest that does not result in prosecution. The bill removes outstanding fines for “infractions, traffic offenses, or minor regulatory offenses” from consideration for expungement. This means that someone who applies for expungement, after waiting for years to shed the label of criminal, cannot be denied because of a completely unrelated fine.
SB 62 also allows makes it easier for those who are arrested, but then never prosecuted for a crime, to be able to quickly have the arrest expunged from their record. This is important because often people confuse an arrest with guilt.
This bill opens the door for more individuals who have made restitution and have steered clear of any further criminal activity to have greater opportunities for housing, employment, and education while shedding the label of being a former criminal.