In 2019, Utah became the second state in the country to pass an “automatic” expungement law. It went into effect in 2020, but as of the date of this post (in Summer of 2021) no cases have been automatically expunged yet. Recently, I volunteered as an “expert expungement attorney” for a day of trying to help the government get the law up-and-running. Here’s what I learned:
The Clean Slate law has its own set of eligibility requirements, which is different than the traditional “petition expungement” process. Unlike the petition-based expungements, there is no automatic expungement of Felonies, or Class A misdemeanors (except for drug possession offenses). Also, most any crime with a “victim” is probably not going to be eligible for automatic expungement. And the wait period is about 2 years longer for cases to be automatically expunged than the petition expungement wait period.
All those differences make some sense. The law is designed to expunge the “easy” cases that everyone agrees are relatively minor. For the more serious or more complicated stuff, they still want people to go through the regular petition process, where the prosecutor and the judge will review the case individually after the defendant applies.
But there are some differences that don’t make sense to me. Right now, it looks like no-one with a case that’s been “dismissed without prejudice” will get an automatic expungement. That’s because the prosecutors want those cases to stay public, in case they decide to re-file the charges. The problem is, after the statute of limitations expires, the case effectively becomes “dismissed with prejudice” because the prosecutor couldn’t actually file the charges again. But no-one goes in to change it in the Court files when that happens, so they won’t get automatically expunged. Also, sometimes the Court clerks enter a case as “dismissed without prejudice” even when it should have been a “with prejudice” at the time (like when someone completes a plea in abeyance).
In other words, I think this law is a great step in the right direction, but it’s taking a long time to get running, and even once it does, there will be lots and lots of people who probably should get an automatic expungement in Utah, but won’t. In the meantime, my firm will still assist all the clients we can with traditional petition-based expungements.
If you’ve got a case that won’t qualify for automatic expungement, or you just don’t want to wait for that process, please get in touch and we’ll see if we can help you get a regular one.