Getting convicted of a Utah drug offense is a serious issue. Because of the stigma associated with drug crimes, it is often difficult for recovering drug addicts to build a stable lifestyle after getting clean and serving their sentences.
Now, state lawmakers are considering legislation to help recovering addicts make a fresh start.
Current Utah law does not allow expungement of a criminal record for those convicted of multiple felonies. However, a single criminal incident often results in multiple felony charges.
For instance, an individual may be pulled over for drunk driving while possessing drug paraphernalia. Because, under certain circumstances, this may qualify as multiple felonies, they are permanently prohibited from expunging their criminal record.
The proposed legislation offers individuals convicted of multiple felonies the chance to expunge their records. The legislation contains language allowing expungement of multiple felony drug offenses arising out of a single occurrence. Additionally, two felony drug possession convictions resulting from separate occurrences also qualify for expungement.
However, these privileges are only extended to those who play by the rules. This means individuals must comply with all the terms of their criminal sentences. This includes serving all necessary jail or prison time, paying all imposed fines and completing all parole or probation requirements. Additionally, once this is complete, they must maintain a clean record for seven years before qualifying for expungement.
What does record expungement mean?
A record expungement means the court seals its own record and the records, including all information related to the criminal case, of the various government agencies involved. This includes:
- Arrest records
- Investigation information
- Conviction status
The public cannot access sealed records. However, given that only government records are sealed, items such as news articles containing information about an arrest or conviction are not sealed.
Drug related convictions are eligible for expungement. It must be noted that certain automobile related felonies such as homicide or driving under the influence of alcohol are not eligible for expungement. Sex crimes also do not qualify.
There are certain limitations to record expungement, even if the proposed legislation is passed. Record expungement is always forbidden if an individual is the subject of an ongoing criminal case. An individual who provides false information when applying for expungement is also deemed ineligible for expungement.
Advantages to the proposed legislation
Advocates of the proposed legislation say it saves a significant amount of time and money. The current expungment process requires an individual to prove they are rehabilitated.
The Board of Pardons must completely review the previous conviction, which in many ways is similar to going through a new trial. If a pardon is granted, the entire process is repeated with the Bureau of Criminal Identification. Under the new legislation, these two steps are combined into one, completed by the Board of Pardons.
Advocates also maintain that the chance of future record expungement gives individuals the incentive to seek rehabilitation or treatment rather than going back to a drug-related lifestyle. An expunged record also provides individuals with additional educational and career opportunities. A criminal record often hinders those seeking to gain additional skills or a better job.
Drug crime convictions can limit freedom and damage reputations. As such, Utah residents charged with drug crimes can benefit from getting help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer can provide knowledge and guidance and can protect defendants’ rights while defending against the charges.