SALT LAKE CITY — A new pilot project to make expunging your criminal record easier just launched here in Utah. The program will impact hundreds of thousands of Utahns.
“People who offend in addiction are not bad people, they’re in survival mode. I would never do those things that I did then today, and I will never do them again, but the stigma around having a criminal record is enough for an employer to not hire you,” said Destiny Garcia, who just bought a house after having her record expunged.
Garcia experienced the pain of having her criminal record hold her back for so long, even after paying her dues.
“Before I got my first expungement I couldn’t even get a job,” said Garcia.
Destiny, now in long term recovery, has been able to move forward after expunging most of her record. But she couldn’t afford it without the help of coworkers who helped her raise the 2,600 dollars she paid out of pocket before this law went into effect.
“I was able to buy my own home, I am able to support my child, I am able to live a life I can support all on my own because I was able to get my expungement,” said Garcia.
For many Utahans, the biggest barrier to wiping their record is the cost. Representative Jim Dunnigan says he’s volunteered at the Salt Lake County Jail, working with men who go through a revolving door because it is so hard to get housing or work with a record.
“The vast majority of them have families, they have spouses, children, and if they can’t get employment or adequate housing, that impacts the whole family, that impacts generations,” said Rep. Jim Dunnigan.
That’s why he sponsored HB 392 which is now in effect, saving people hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The program waives all fees for those eligible with the exception of a 65 dollar filing fee.
“These folks don’t have that kind of money, and we need workers in Utah and when I go to jail each week, I see a labor force, even if they get out and they’ve kept their nose clean and paid all their dues to society, they still have that on their record and this is going to help them expunge that , have a clean slate, and get on with their life,” said Rep. Dunnigan.
A new company, RASA, takes it a step further, providing low-cost legal expungement services for people who are not eligible for automatic clearances.
“Having a criminal record is incredibly common, over 800,000 Utahans have some type of criminal records so it’s more than 1 in 4 Utahns, and even having minor records can create huge barriers for people who are trying to move forward with their lives,” said Noella Sudbury, RASA Public Benefit Corporation.
RASA uses a technology that allows for us to reduce attorney fees associated with the expunge process, representing people in up to 3 cases for $500, compared to the normal $2-3K PLUS government fees (although they are waived starting Wednesday).
Rasa launched in February and has already had 200 people come to them for services, including Destiny who has a few remaining items to be expunged after failing to complete the process the first time.
“I rebuilt my life from homelessness, having to rebuild that, work so hard, maintain a job and take care of my kids… I didn’t have the time to put hours into getting that paperwork done,” said Garcia.
According to RASA, 75 percent of people who choose to represent themselves don’t make it through the process.
Destiny says she recommends if you need an expungement to act now.
“With HB 392 and the fees being waived, now is the time to do it in the next year. It will take away hundreds if not thousands of dollars in fees that you don’t have to pay now,” said Garcia.
This pilot program runs until June 30, 2023.
For details on a free RASA webinar Thursday at 5:30pm to help people go over the expungement process, click here.