New Utah Law Greatly Expands Expungement Eligibility and Benefits

Utah S.B. 12 was signed into law on March 24, 2017 and becomes effective on May 8, 2017

A new law has just passed which greatly expands expungement eligibility in Utah. The new law, also called S.B. 12, was signed into law on March 24, 2017, by Utah Governor Gary Herbert. The law goes into effect on May 8, 2017 (60 days after the Legislature adjourned).

The new law will expand the number of people and offenses that may qualify for an expungement. Under current law, someone who has multiple convictions (including minor traffic citations) may be completely disqualified from expunging any conviction he has in his record – depending on the number, type and level of offenses he has. For example, someone who has 5 or more separate misdemeanor or felony convictions is currently not eligible to expunge any conviction in his record (regardless of how old it is), even if all his previous convictions were for very minor traffic citations (such as a class C misdemeanor driving without insurance or driving without a license). As a result, current law has prevented many law-abiding individuals in the community from cleaning up negative blemishes in their younger past; such records, in turn, often prevents them from greater access to employment, housing, credit and other opportunities in life—years after they have long completed their sentences and paid their dues for past wrongdoing.

The new expungement law would expand the category of offenses that may not be counted towards a person’s total. While current law already excludes certain types and levels of offenses from being counted, it is still limited and does not exclude many common traffic offenses (such as class C driving w/o a license) from being counted. The new law would exclude most traffic and traffic-related offenses from being counted, other than DUIs and alcohol-related offenses. And while the new would continue to prohibit an expungement for anyone with too many countable convictions, it rewards individuals with lengthy periods of law-abidingness—i.e., those whose last sentence was completed over 10 years ago—by increasing the total number/type of conviction that individual could have and still qualify for an expungement. All these changes would give more people a chance at a “fresh start”, help them better reintegrate into the community and be more productive members of their families and society.

If you have a question or are interested in determining your eligibility under the new expungement law, you can contact our firm for a free confidential phone consultation.

If you have previously been found ineligible for expungement in Utah due to having too many convictions on your record, you may now qualify under the new law. You can take our free online eligibility test to see if you might qualify for expungement once the new law takes effect.

You can check if you are eligible for expungement under this new law change by taking our free online expungement eligibility test.

Traffic offenses, infractions, and minor regulatory offenses no longer make a person ineligible for expungement

Most importantly, S.B. 12 changes the existing expungement law to reduce how many offenses you can have without being eligible for expungement. Under the old law, a person could only have up to 4 total convictions on their record depending on the mix of conviction types. For example, if a person had a felony, then they could have no other convictions, but if a person had only misdemeanor B’s they could have 3 convictions. Traffic and many other minor offenses would count towards the total number of offenses under the old law.

Now that most traffic offenses, infractions, and certain other minor offenses do not count toward the allowable total number of offenses, many more people will be allowed to have their records expunged. This is an excellent outcome because it was previously unfair for two people with 2 misdemeanor A’s to be treated differently on the basis of one of them having a minor traffic conviction.

“If you were ineligible under the old law, there is a strong possibility that you are eligible under the new law.”
What this means in practice is that past offenders who have several or many traffic or infraction offenses on their records will more likely be able to obtain an expungement under the new law. This bill was meant to be a major expansion of the expungement law and we believe that it will cause a surge in the number of expungement applications. We suggest starting soon in case a delay in the court is caused by the relaxed eligibility requirements.

Click here to learn more about expungement in UT. Click here to take our eligibility test to see if the new law can help you or someone you know.

If 10 years have passed since your release or conviction, the capped number of offenses is increased by 1

One other important change to the law is that if at least 10 years have passed since your most recent conviction, release from incarceration or probation (whichever occurred last), then the number of offenses you can have and still qualify for expungement would increase by 1. What this means is that the limits mentioned above (no more than 1 felony or 3 misdemeanor B’s, for example) will increase by 1. This would mean that such person could have up to 2 felonies or up to 4 misdemeanor B’s.

All of this can be somewhat complicated and we are able to assist anyone with the process to ensure that you are able to apply for an expungement if you are eligible under the new law.

Other Effects of the new law

While the most noticeable effect of SB 12 is an expansion of eligibility for expungement, the law also will make several small changes which should not affect most people.
Expungements now more strictly limit dissemination of the expunged record

Under the new law, an expungement has greater protective effect because now the ability of the record to be disseminated is reduced. This is balanced by the other policy change which allows for certain types of post-conviction relief to be considered in sentencing for new crimes which are committed by a person who receives certain types of post-conviction relief. The good news is that this change will better protect rehabilitated and law-abiding members of the community while it will allow for harsher penalties for those who reoffend. Most important is the ability for those people who receive an expungement and are reformed because this allows them to reenter society without all of the criminal baggage which might make it more likely for them to reoffend.

The New Law Allows For Consideration of Reduced Cases in Certain Circumstances

As a tradeoff for expanding the relief available, SB 12 also officially adds an existing practice into the law of considering the initial level of an offense, if it was reduced, when considering sentencing in subsequent cases. This is a very small price to pay for the greatly increased availability of a Utah expungement, especially considering that courts have always had discretion to consider the original nature of the charge during sentencing of subsequent offenses.

Contact us today to see if you are eligible for expungement under newly passed SB 12. The quickest and easiest way to see if you are eligible is to take our free online expungement eligibility test.

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