SALT LAKE CITY — A new law went into effect Thursday that will "wipe the slate clean" for hundreds of thousands of Utahns whose criminal record will now be removed from their records.
Passed in 2019 by unanimous vote in the Utah legislature, the "Clean Slate Law" applies to non-violent, misdemeanor offenders who have a clean record for the five-to-seven year waiting period.
Having a criminal record is more common than many people realize. More than one-in-four Utahns have some type of record, and those records can create barriers to housing and jobs.
Nearly 500,000 Utahns have been identified for automatic clearance so far.
“For the Courts, this law is about access to justice, an issue we care deeply about,” said Ron Gordon, Utah State Court Administrator.
“We know that our legal systems have barriers and that many of our neediest Utahns require a lawyer to help them and cannot afford one. Criminal record expungement is one of these areas."
Due to cost, the complicated process, lack of knowledge, and lack of legal representation, less than 10% of people eligible to clear their records have made it through the process. Utah’s Clean Slate law changes this landscape completely.
"We went back 15 years and there were 14,000 people who could have benefited from this kind of a process, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
"The data shows us that if you go four years without committing a crime, you're propensity commit that crime is no different than you and I, yet they continue to pay a price."
Because of logistical issues during the pandemic, the law's effective date was delayed from May 2020 until Thursday.
Utah Courts will first start to clear records of cases that have been dismissed or resulted in an acquittal; there are 218,000 records with over 800,000 combined cases that fall into these categories and will be automatically expunged.
Because of the sheer volume of cases, they will be done in batches over the coming months.
A public education campaign is now underway to explain this change, as well as a website with more information about the new law.
“We believe in the rule of law and holding people accountable. AND we believe in second chances and second chances are so important,” said Gov. Spencer Cox of the new law.