Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Utah law allows certain records of criminal arrests and even convictions to be sealed by following a set of procedures. The process of sealing criminal records is called "expungement." This page explains most of the current requirements for expungement in Utah.

An amendment to the current expungement laws is being proposed in the Utah legislature and may be considered in the upcoming legislative session. The draft language of the bill can be found here.

Kelly Ann Booth
, a Utah attorney who has been closely tracking this proposed legislation says, "The proposed changes in expungement law [will] severely limit people’s ability to expunge convictions." She cites three primary problems with the new law:

  1. New Fees - The proposed changes would include new fees. The new fees will make it more difficult for some people to get access to expungement relief.
  2. Prosecutorial Discretion - The new rules would allow a prosecutor to dismiss criminal charges, and then prevent the accused person from expunging his or her record by refusing to consent to the expungement.
  3. Investigation Exception - The bill would prevent expungement of a crime that is under investigation. Ms. Booth argues that this language should be more precise to prevent a prosecutor from dropping charges and then "investigating" for years a crime that will never be brought to court.
For a long time now, Utah law has recognized that people who have made a few isolated mistakes or been mistakenly arrested should have the opportunity to clean their records. I have read the new bill, and I share Ms. Booth's concerns. Utah's lawmakers should carefully consider whether these changes will accomplish their goals.



Danielle said...

If in fact such changes do accomplish the lawmakers' goals, I would like a clear delineation of what those goals are. Just from the three considerations that you cited (especially the last two), I think the potential amendments would create an expungement rule that is fundamentally unfair.

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