SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Over 50 volunteer attorneys took part in Salt Lake County’s virtual expungement day to provide free legal assistance to community members with criminal records.
The Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Initiatives partnered with the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, Salt Lake City Justice Court, 3rd District Court, and the Utah State Bar, to host the online event.
Participating courts held remote ‘courtrooms’ to hear expungement related motions. Prosecutors from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office also donated their time so that motions that required the participation of prosecutors could be heard.
During the half day remote expungement day, 154 community members were assisted.
According to Salt Lake County, one in five people in the United States has a criminal record. Data from the Utah Department of Public Safety suggests that in Utah it could even be as high as one in four persons.
Having a criminal record creates barriers for people when it comes to housing access, employment, and educational opportunities. The county says that when people cannot find places to live and a decent paying job, the chance for recidivism, homelessness, and relapse increases, ultimately increasing costs to taxpayers.
“Our whole notion of the criminal justice system is premised on the notion of rehabilitation. On the
premise that when you pay your debt to society, we welcome you back into our community to be an
equal partner and an equal contributor to the success of our society. Expungement Day is us
delivering on that promise,” said Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill.
The Expungement Program was launched in April 2019 with the assistance of a federal grant for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Initiatives. The program has since helped 2,000 people navigate the lengthy, complicated, and costly expungement process. The program has successfully expunged over 750 eligible cases.
Prior to the pandemic, the program would normally hold events that drew hundreds of people seeking help.
“While this COVID period has been a time of disruption, it also has been a time of incredible innovation. Our new model of remote expungement events is just one example,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.
Expungement is a legal process set forth in Utah law. It defines who is, and who is not eligible to clear their court records. Applications for expungement are first submitted to the Department of Public Safety to confirm eligibility. Petitions for expungement are then submitted to the court, which makes the final decision on if the applicant can expunge their record or not.
The Clean Slate/Automatic Expungement law was passed in 2019. It directs the courts to build a system that will automatically expunge low-level offenses for those with minimal criminal history after a period of law-abiding citizenship.
Community members seeking assistance from the Expungement Navigation Project can sign up for assistance here.