The consequences of a criminal conviction can last far beyond a prison sentence or probation term. With most business owners and even landlords conducting background checks, criminal records can prove to be a barrier to employment, stable shelter, and much more. The challenges inherent in living with a criminal record have led to the rise of expungement programs, which strike certain charges from a person's criminal record once those charges meet state guidelines. Expungement often requires an application and an in-depth review by the authorities.
In Connecticut, lawmakers want their state's expungement program to promote a fair chance as originally intended. According to the Hartford Courant, the state sees an approximately $1.2 billion annual loss of economic activity due to opportunities missed as a result of a criminal record. The Connecticut State Senate is currently considering the bill, dubbed the "Clean Slate" law, following its passing out of committee by a slim margin.
The new rules would automate the expungement process, removing the need for an application or review process that often resulted in denials. After three years, misdemeanor crimes would vanish from a person's public record; nonviolent felonies would be expunged after five years. These are the same eligibility periods currently enshrined in law but with much of the red tape removed--individuals would still need to avoid further arrests and convictions to keep their records clean.
Petitioners seeking to have violent felonies expunged would still require a case-by-case review. Once expunged, the records would not be visible in a typical background check, such as the state-level reports offered by backgroundchecks.com.
Some opponents of the Clean Slate bill contend that it indiscriminately "wipes away" serious crimes and disrespects victims while others take issue with the preservation of the 3- and 5-year terms. Craig Fishbein, a Republican state representative, believed that a 10-year crime-free period was more appropriate for automatic expungement. Advocates countered that the terms only begin after an individual completes a prison sentence and thus has already faced the consequences of the crime.
As Connecticut's legislative session continues, the bill will soon go up for debate before the full State Senate. The bill's sponsors and advocacy groups both say they believe in the potential positive impact on the state, including reduced rates of recidivism and a larger labor pool. Whether the bill will reach Governor Ned Lamont's desk remains to be seen.
While Connecticut considers making criminal record expungement automatic, many states maintain more complicated processes for accessing this opportunity for a second chance. For those with past criminal charges, expungement can help to open doors and break down barriers.
At backgroundchecks.com, we provide a pathway to accessing the independent MyClearStart service, which helps to evaluate your initial eligibility for expungement in your state. Should you have a case, MyClearStart can put you in touch with a lawyer for taking the next steps.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments