Utah’s expungement laws provide a path to clear your criminal record. An expungement order will allow you to respond to most questions or inquiries about past criminal charges as though the arrest or conviction did not occur.
Formal expungement can be complicated, and the assistance of an experienced attorney will be helpful.
Clean Slate / Automatic or Expungement by Petition
The processes and standards for expunging adult criminal records is established under Utah Code sections 77-40a-201 through 203 and sections 77-40a-301 through 306. This page provides a brief overview of some of the options available and issues that can arise relating to:
- formal petitions for expungement;
- automatic expungements; and
- clean-slate eligibility.
Formal Petition for Expungement
For cases requiring that a formal petition for expungement be filed with the court, there are several steps required to get from initial inquiry to final order. These steps are briefly outlined below.
BCI Certificate of Eligibility
The expungement process in Utah begins by submitting an application to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) for a certificate of eligibility. Before issuing an expungement certificate of eligibility, BCI will conduct a thorough background check, reviewing not only Utah district court and justice court records, but also FBI databases and criminal record information from other states.
In determining eligibility for expungement, Utah’s expungement statutes consider not only the number of convictions (in Utah as well as other jurisdictions), but also the severity of those convictions and the time that has passed since jail, probation, or parole were completed. If BCI determines that a person has too many convictions or that the convictions are too recent, they will deny the issuance of a certificate of eligibility for expungement.
Filing the Expungement Petition
If BCI issues a certificate of eligibility for expungement, then that certificate must be included in a formal petition for expungement filed with the appropriate court. If the charges resulted either in a conviction or in a case that was filed in court but later dismissed, then the expungement petition must be filed in that court. If the incident involves an arrest or criminal investigation that did not result in formal charges being filed in court, then the expungement petition must be filed in the district court for the county having jurisdiction over the matter.
In order to successfully obtain an expungement order, the petition must establish grounds sufficient for the court to determine that an expungement is not contrary to the public interest. If the victim or prosecutor objects to the expungement petition, the petitioner is entitled to a formal court hearing on the question of whether expungement is proper.
If there is a named victim in the case, the prosecution is required to make reasonable attempts to provide notice to the victim that an expungement petition has been filed. The prosecution should also provide the victim with information on how they may respond or object to the petition.
Court Hearing on the Petition
If the prosecution has not objected to the expungement petition, the court may grant the petition without holding a formal hearing. However, if the prosecution objects or if the judge has additional questions or concerns relating to the expungement request, a court hearing should be scheduled where all sides will be given a chance to address the court.
Distribution of the Signed Expungement Order
Obtaining the judge’s signature on the expungement order is not the end of the expungement process. Unless a certified copy of the expungement order is delivered to each government agency in possession of records relating to the criminal case, they may still make information about the criminal investigation, arrest, or charges available to the public. Only after being presented with a certified copy of the expungement order will they be required to cease disclosing information about the case. Such records will then be sealed, and will no longer be available to the public.
Part 2 of the Utah Expungement Act provides for “automatic” expungement of certain categories of criminal case records. Eligible criminal cases include those that resulted in an acquittal (not guilty verdict) at trial and those that have been dismissed with prejudice (excluding cases dismissed pursuant to the terms of a plea in abeyance agreement). Cases classified as “clean slate” eligible are also eligible for the automatic expungement process.
The Judicial Council and Supreme Court are tasked under the statute with establishing rules and procedures governing the expungement of eligible cases. But there no guarantee that every district court or justice court will properly identify and process all cases eligible for expungement under the “automatic” provisions of the law. The statute itself seems to anticipate that some cases may fall through the cracks or that the courts may become backlogged with eligible cases.
Section 77-40a-201(5) specifically states, “[n]othing in this section precludes an individual from filing a petition for expungement of records that are eligible for automatic expungement… if an automatic expungement has not occurred….” In other words, if a case is eligible for automatic expungement but, for whatever reason, has not been expunged, a person can file a formal petition requesting immediate expungement of that specific case.