As some of you know, your criminal record can follow you around like a bad shadow. With many jobs, requests for federal or state aid or student loans, and housing applications, there is a box asking if you have been convicted of a major or minor crime. If you have traffic tickets to felonies on your record, you may be required to check the box. With jobs, the hiring official can ask questions about your criminal record and potentially not hire you based on prior convictions. For college, you can be denied federal loans and grants if you have a criminal background. Thankfully, the expungement process can seal your records so the public cannot see your prior arrests and convictions.
You can seal your juvenile and adult records. Expungement depends on three factors: the type of crime committed, time, the number of convictions, and compliance with the Court. Pending cases cannot be expunged.
Not all crimes can be expunged. Capital felonies, First degree felonies, violent felonies, automobile homicide, registered sex offense, and felonies while driving under the influence cannot be expunged. All other arrests, infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies may be expunged. Different convictions equate to different waiting periods for expungement. Felonies require seven years and misdemeanors and infractions can be up to 6 years. The waiting period begins after parole or probation is completed.
Accumulated convictions can hurt your chance for expungement. People are eligible for expunging their record if they have less than two felonies, less than three or four misdemeanors, and less than five other crimes. If you have multiple drug possession offenses, these can be mitigated to meet the requirements for sealing your record.
Lastly, and not to be forgotten, make sure you have paid all fines, fees, restitution, and interest to the Court.
So, after enough time elapses and you’ve complied with the Court and other caveats, your record is eligible for expungement. What next? First, you need to file with the Bureau of Criminal Identification then petition to expunge your records. Once the prosecutor receives the petition, they can recommend or object to the petition. The office of Adult Probation and Parole my need to write a response to the petition. If the prosecutor objects to the petition, a hearing will be would be held to determine the outcome. The court then files an order and if the order grants your expungement, you must send certified copies of the order to multiple agencies such as the arresting agency, county jail, prosecutor’s office, driver’s license division, etc. Only agencies that receive notice of the sealing will seal the records.
Getting your record expunged requires patience and multiple filings and paper shuffling. You can do it on your own by following the guidelines on the Utah Courts website: https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/expunge/. Many lawyers complete client’s expungements for a flat rate and some even include it in criminal defense rates. If hiring a lawyer is too expensive and you need help, Utah Legal Services provides low-cost and free legal advice. Their phone number is (800) 662-4245 and an online application for services can be completed at www.utahlegalservices.org.
When I worked in human resources, my most memorable experience was helping a young man who had a rough (and criminal) life get one of his first legitimate jobs. He truly wanted to improve himself while being fully accountable for his prior actions. He could not expunge his record yet, but was planning to. When a person’s record is expunged, it provides them a second chance and opportunities to move forward with their life with increased access to work, schooling, and housing opportunities. If you know someone who would benefit from having an expunged record, share this information to see how they can move past their prior mistakes.
Disclaimer. As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal
profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at