Utah’s courts will rely on an algorithm to implement the state’s Clean Slate Law, which automatically expunges old and minor criminal records of individuals who have remained crime free for a set period of time.
“We believe in the rule of law and that people should be held accountable when a law is broken. But we also believe in second chances,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. “Utah’s Clean Slate law is a common-sense policy that will help people find housing, get jobs and contribute back to their communities after paying their debt to society.”
To implement the 2019 law, Utah worked with the nonprofit Code for America to automate the process. This partnership is part of Code for America’s national effort to make automatic record clearance the standard across the country.
Code for America, working with the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts, created an algorithm to automatically identify all the conviction cases that were immediately eligible to be cleared, and receive record clearance relief once the law took effect. The Utah Courts are now adopting Code for America’s code and technical process to identify eligible conviction records on their own and continually clear records as the meet eligibility requirements.
“The fundamental shift – moving from a petition-based process to an automatic process – will help Utah achieve record clearance equitably, expeditiously, and at scale,” said Meilani Santillan, director of Code for America’s Criminal Justice Program. “We’re proud that because of our work, almost 500,000 people will receive conviction relief starting this month. A conviction should not be a life sentence to poverty, and this achievement will help tens of thousands of people in Utah have access to jobs, housing and other opportunities that they otherwise might be denied.”
The new law provides automatic record expungement for cases dismissed with prejudice and certain qualifying misdemeanor conviction records. Individuals must remain conviction-free for 5-7 years in order to qualify. Offenses covered by the law include misdemeanor A drug possession, most misdemeanor B and C level offenses, and all infractions.
Utah Courts said in a press release that the new law will not clear any felony records, domestic violence related offenses, sex offenses, simple assault, or DUI offenses. The law also has numerical limits, meaning that some individuals will have too many total records to qualify for any automatic clearance.
“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.”
In a press release, Utah Courts said it 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. These cases will not all be expunged at once, rather, this will happen in batches over the coming months.