SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Destiny Garcia was experiencing homelessness and battling addiction when she was arrested in 2017.
“I’m a woman of long-term recovery from heroin and meth use,” says Garcia, “I was thrown into jail with 13 warrants and I went into treatment. After that I graduated treatment, I graduated drug court, moved into sober living, and that’s when I started having to look for a job.”
Garcia realized quickly, despite her sobriety, her criminal record stopped her from getting jobs. “I was looking for jobs everywhere I couldn’t get a job, when I would get a job and they would hire me, as soon as they looked at my background they would let me go,” says Garcia.
At first she got a job at Build-A-Bear, a second chance company. She was only paid a little over eight dollars an hour, for about ten hours a week. It barely covered her bus fare to work. Eventually, Garcia landed a job at the Salt Lake County Mayor’s office making double the salary of what most in recovery make. She was still unable to afford the cost of getting her record expunged and was only able to do so with help from friends and colleagues. “I was able to expunge 13 things off of my record. The final cost of that was 3,000 dollars,” says Garcia.
More than 800,000 people in the state of Utah have a criminal record, according to Clean Slate Utah, a non-profit organization with a goal to educate Utahns about the clean slate law. Many of those people could qualify to get records expunged, but do not have the financial means to do so. Utah’s clean slate law will automatically clear eligible records without having to go through a costly and complicated expungement process. Eligible records only include certain misdemeanors. Class C misdemeanors would be expunged after five years from the date of adjudication, six years after class B misdemeanors, and seven years for eligible class A misdemeanors. Currently, more than 200,000 people in Utah will benefit from this law being implemented.
Noella Sudbury, the Executive Director of Clean Slate Utah says the bill had bipartisan support because of the positive impact it could have on society.
“It strengthens our economy, it improves our tax base, it makes our community safer, and in a tight labor market people need workers, and this law will help a lot of people get back into the workforce,” says Sudbury.
But most importantly, Sudbury says people, much like Garcia, will get a second chance.
“Before I got my records expunged I couldn’t even get into an apartment. My son had to help me get an apartment. I’m closing on my first home on March first,” says Garcia.