Expungement is a legal process that holds immense significance for individuals seeking a fresh start after a brush with the criminal justice system. It offers a glimmer of hope, a chance to turn the page and rebuild one's life without the burden of a stained record.
In Utah, expungement not only seals a criminal record from public access but also grants individuals the legal right to deny that the arrest or conviction ever occurred. Understanding the eligibility requirements for expungement is of utmost importance, as it paves the way for individuals to pursue this opportunity for a clean slate.
By comprehending the eligibility requirements, individuals can take the necessary steps to prepare themselves for the expungement process. They can assess whether they have fulfilled the waiting periods, completed the required sentence, or met any criteria specific to their case. This understanding empowers individuals to make informed decisions about pursuing expungement and seeking legal assistance when necessary.
Understanding Expungements in Utah
Expungement in Utah encompasses the transformative process of sealing the court record of an arrest or conviction, carrying profound implications for individuals seeking a fresh start and the opportunity to leave their past behind. It serves as a vital tool in clearing criminal records, offering a way to seal sensitive information relating to an arrest, investigation, detention, and conviction (whether it resulted from a guilty plea or a verdict). The significance of expungement lies in its ability to limit public access to the sealed record, rendering it inaccessible without a court order.
General Expungement Eligibility Criteria
Several factors come into play concerning expungement eligibility, highlighting the importance of meeting specific requirements to pursue this legal process.
Generally, the eligibility criteria include the following:
- Finished case: The case in question must be fully complete. Expungement cannot be sought for a pending case, as it is essential to have a finalized resolution before moving forward. Furthermore, if an individual has another criminal case pending, they cannot request an expungement for a finished case. This stipulation ensures that expungement is pursued only when all legal matters have been addressed and resolved.
- Satisfied financial liabilities: Individuals must satisfy any outstanding fines, fees, court costs, and restitution related to the offense. By meeting these obligations, individuals demonstrate their willingness to take responsibility and fulfill their legal and financial duties, essential factors in the expungement process.
- Completed sentence: Individuals seeking expungement must not be incarcerated, in jail, or on parole or probation at the time of application. This requirement ensures that individuals actively serving their sentence or still under supervision are not granted the benefits of expungement until they have completed their obligations to the criminal justice system. Similarly, having a protective order issued against an individual can disqualify them from seeking expungement, as it signifies ongoing legal concerns that must be addressed.
- Enough time has elapsed: Another important consideration is the waiting period associated with expungement. Before an individual can request expungement, a certain amount of time must pass from the completion of their case. This waiting period allows for reflection, rehabilitation, and the demonstration of a sustained commitment to positive change. It serves as a measure of an individual's readiness to leave their past behind and reenter society with a clean slate.
Utah's Clean Slate Law
Utah's Clean Slate law represents a significant step towards providing individuals with a path to automatic expungement for certain misdemeanor cases. Passed in 2019, the law came into effect on February 10, 2022, offering an opportunity for individuals with minor criminal records to have their records cleared without needing a formal expungement petition.
Individuals must meet specific criteria to qualify for relief under the Clean Slate law. They must have only a minor criminal record, indicating that their involvement in the criminal justice system has been limited to certain misdemeanor offenses. Additionally, being crime-free is a crucial requirement, demonstrating a commitment to leading a law-abiding life.
The offenses that fall within the scope of the Clean Slate law encompass a range of misdemeanors, including:
- Class A misdemeanor drug possession
- Most class B and C misdemeanors
- Minor regulatory offenses
Waiting periods play a significant role in Utah's Clean Slate law. The length of the waiting period depends on the circumstances. For instance, a case dismissed with prejudice may have a waiting period of 180 days, while an adjudicated class A drug possession case could have a waiting period of up to 7 years.
Expungement Exclusions Under the Clean Slate Law
Under the Clean Slate Law in Utah, while automatic expungement is a welcome opportunity for many individuals with minor criminal records, exclusions exist. These exclusions prevent the automatic expungement of certain offenses, ensuring that the Clean Slate Law strikes a balance between offering a fresh start and prioritizing public safety.
Records that cannot be automatically expunged include those concerning:
- Registerable sex offenses
- Domestic violence
- Weapons-related crimes
- Simple assault
Expungement Eligibility for Felonies
Unlike automatic misdemeanor expungement under the Clean Slate Law, felonies still require a petition-based process, where individuals must actively seek expungement through the court system.
One key aspect of eligibility for felony expungement is waiting periods. The waiting period begins after the individual's conviction or release from incarceration or parole, whichever occurs later.
For individuals seeking expungement of a felony offense, a waiting period of 7 years is generally required. This waiting period serves as a period of reflection and rehabilitation, allowing individuals to demonstrate their commitment to positive change and law-abiding behavior for some time.
In the case of felony drug possession, the waiting period for expungement is reduced to 5 years. This distinction acknowledges that drug offenses, while serious, may also be associated with rehabilitation and a lower risk of recidivism. By reducing the waiting period for felony drug possession, the law recognizes the potential for individuals to overcome substance abuse issues and rebuild their lives.
Exceptions and Disqualifications for Certain Felony Offenses
While the expungement process offers individuals with felony convictions the chance to leave their past behind and move forward with a clean slate, it's important to note that certain felony offenses are excluded from expungement.
Records can’t be sealed for:
- Capital, first-degree, or violent felonies
- Felony automobile homicide
- Felony DUI
- Registerable sex offenses
- Registerable child abuse offenses
In addition to specific offenses, certain disqualifications based on the number and nature of crimes on an individual's record also apply. If an individual has two or more felonies, they are generally disqualified from expunging their record. Similarly, having three or more crimes on record, with two being class A misdemeanors, can disqualify an individual from sealing criminal information. Further disqualifications include having four or more crimes on record, three of which are class B misdemeanors or having five or more crimes of any degree on record.
Seeking Legal Assistance
When determining your eligibility for expungement in Utah, getting professional legal advice is paramount. A criminal defense attorney handling these cases can provide valuable guidance and ensure that you navigate the process effectively.
To learn more about your record-sealing options in Salt Lake City, contact Lokken & Putnam, P.C. at (801) 829-9783.