The State of Utah has followed in Pennsylvania’s footsteps and approved a bill to automate expungement for certain low level offenses. The law is aimed at helping reformed offenders return to society without the heavy stigma a criminal record create. House Bill 431 (H.B. 431) establishes a definition for “clean slate eligible cases,” and creates a procedure to automatically expunge clean slate eligible cases, cases that resulted in an acquittal, and cases which were dismissed with prejudice. The law does not address the issue of inaccurate records being reported by private background check databases. With the law not taking effect until May 1, 2020, it is important for those eligible for expungement now to not wait for the automatic expungement process to take care of their record for them.
A “clean slate eligible” case does not include felonies and does not alter the restrictions on the number of cases an individual may have under current expungement law. An individual may have an eligible case if their offense was a misdemeanor conviction for possession of a controlled substance, a class B or C misdemeanor conviction, an infraction conviction that involves an individual, and meet a waiting period 5 years for a class C misdemeanor or infraction, 6 years for a class B misdemeanor, and 7 years for a class A misdemeanor possession conviction. Pleas in abeyance are also eligible as long as the offense(s) included in the case meet the same conditions convictions are required to meet. Some restrictions on eligibility include not satisfying financial penalties owed to the court or the case being dismissed due to reason of insanity.
The other key part of the law establishes the procedure for automatic expungement, and directs the state’s Judicial Council to create rules for executing the process. Three types of cases are eligible for automatic expungement consideration: cases that resulted in an acquittal, cases that were dismissed with prejudice, and clean slate eligible cases. All three case types share a common procedure where the court will issue an order for expungement that will be executed by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and the appropriate prosecutor’s office. With clean slate eligible cases, there are added steps that take place prior to a court issuing any order. On a monthly basis, the prosecutor’s office in the jurisdiction of the case will be notified of an eligible “clean slate” case. Within 35 days of receiving such a notice, if the prosecutor objects to automatic expungement, they must provide written notice, in accordance with rules that will be set by the Judicial Council, of their objections. Their objection is restricted to being based on either: the case fails to meet the “clean slate eligible” definition, the individual has not paid court-ordered restitution, or if their office believes that the eligible case belongs to someone who is continuing to engage in criminal activity. If there is an objection, then the court will not proceed with automatic expungement and there does not appear to be any statutory language requiring the court or prosecutor’s office to notify the case holder of this occurrence. Should there be no objection, then the automatic expungement will proceed. The law also includes a procedure for certain driving offenses to be automatically deleted if the offense resulted in an acquittal, was dismissed with prejudice, or is clean slate eligible.
HB 431 will become law on May 1, 2020 and implementation of this law will be made with “reasonable efforts within the available funding.” The inclusion of this statutory language means the timelines contained within the law are effectively fungible if adequate funding is not appropriated. Fortunately the law is clear that petitioners can be proactive and file their own requests for expungement once they are eligible. The statutory goals for completion of automatic expungement will vary based on when a case is adjudicated, with the date of May 1, 2020 being the line of demarcation. Cases adjudicated prior to May 1, 2020 have a goal of being expunged within a year of being identified of being eligible. Cases adjudicated on or after May 1, 2020 will have the following goals: acquittals will be processed 60 days after acquittal, cases dismissed with prejudice will be processed 180 days from the day of dismissal (if there is no appeal) and 180 days from the day the court issues a final unappealable order (if there is an appeal), and clean slate eligible cases will be expunged within 30 days of the court determining that all requirements of the procedure are satisfied.
If your life and career simply does not have the time to wait for the bureaucracy to get moving, contact our law firm today and we can help you achieve record relief now. And we can do one better than just simple expungement, we also offer a service that will expedite the process of notifying private background check companies that your record is no longer to be distributed on background checks. Contact us today at (877) 573-7273 so we can help you achieve a future with better opportunity.