I’ve been contacted by several people lately who were confused about the difference between “dismissed” charges and “expunged” charges. What they don’t understand is that the record of your criminal case–whether you were convicted, found not-guilty, or the case was dismissed–is always part of the public record unless it is expunged.
I think what often happens is the prosecutor offers a “plea-in-abeyance” deal, where the charges are dismissed at the end of the abeyance period. They often explain (or defense counsel often explains) that a plea-in-abeyance deal keeps the conviction “off your record.” That’s true: it does keep the conviction off your record, but it doesn’t seal the record from public view. So anyone doing an official records search in Utah can still see the record of the case, see what you plead guilty to, and see what happened with your plea-in-abeyance. While this is certainly better than having a conviction, it can still be problematic.
Simply put, the only way to keep the entire record of your case from appearing in official background checks is to go through the expungement process. The good news is that dismissed cases are eligible for expungement just 30 days after dismissal (much better than the several-year wait required for even minor convictions). I’ve helped many people through this process before, and I’d be glad to help. Check out my expungement page for more info.
Content by Dain Smoland (Google+)