March 25, 2021
March 2021 Remote Expungement Day Was Held on Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Salt Lake County, UT— 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 hold the Spring 2021 Remote Expungement Day on March 24, 2021.
More than 40 volunteer attorneys were online to assist during the half-day event, which provided free legal assistance to community members with Utah criminal records. Participating courts held remote “courtrooms” to hear expungement related motions. Prosecutors from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office also assisted so that motions requiring the participation of prosecutors, could be heard.
More than 150 community members were assisted during the event.
Approximately one in five people in the United States has a criminal record, and data from the Utah Department of Public Safety suggests that number in Utah is likely as high as one in four, creating numerous barriers to individuals including an inability to access housing, employment, and educational opportunities. When individuals cannot obtain decent paying jobs and safe places to live, the chances of recidivism, homelessness, and relapse increase, which in turn increases costs to the 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.
With the assistance of a federal grant, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Initiatives launched the Expungement Navigation Project in April 2019 to help eligible individuals navigate the lengthy, complicated, and costly expungement process. The Project has since assisted more than 2,500 individuals, resulting in the successful expungement of over 1,000 eligible cases.
Prior to COVID-19, the project primarily provided service through large-sale public events that drew several hundred members of the community 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.
“Our new remote expungement day events are definitely proving to a be a more sustainable, efficient model of service,” said Jake Smith, Salt Lake County’s Expungement Navigator Program Manager. “The remote events tend to be smaller, but we can hold them more frequently because they require fewer physical resources and supplies, and volunteers or community members don’t need to clear their entire day to participate. Before COVID, we held our events in person and in very large venues. Individuals would sometimes have to wait hours before they could receive assistance, often taking the entire day off work. Now, we reach community members by phone and email. Our new model is much more mindful of the needs of individuals who can’t take time off work or are unable to find childcare.”
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 must be submitted to the Department of Public Safety, which runs a comprehensive criminal background check to confirm eligibility. Petitions for expungement must then be submitted to the court, and the court makes the final determination on whether the applicant can expunge their record.
The Clean Slate/Automatic Expungement law that passed in 2019, directs the courts to build a system which will automatically expunge low-level offenses for those with minimal criminal history after a period of law-abiding citizenship. Implementation of this mandate will take significant time and has been delayed by COVID19. In the meantime, eligible individuals can continue to seek expungement through traditional petition-based expungement.
Expungement Day events in Salt Lake County are made possible through the support of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. This project is supported by Grant No.
2016-DJ-BX-0772 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, United States Department of Justice.