For many people who have a criminal background, finding good, steady employment and even housing can be difficult due to background checks that companies perform. Millions of dollars are spent on reforming criminals to become working members of society, but upon entering the workforce, they are met with many barriers. In Utah, lawmakers are now looking at refining the process of expunging certain criminal records from people's past. The current process is complicated, redundant, and costly for many of the applicants.
In 2012, Utah lawmakers studied issues around the expungement of drug-related offenses. This would allow a specific number of drug-possession felonies and misdemeanors to be eligible for a pardon from the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. This would have the same legal effect as an actual court ordered expungement. Some crimes, naturally, cannot be expunged, such as capital murder, first-degree and violent felonies and registerable sex offenses. With around 700-800 applicants who wish to clear their criminal history, it takes around 10-12 weeks for the applicant to even learn if they are eligible to proceed with the rest of the process. There are also limits as to how many expungements a person is eligible for based on type and number and a waiting period before applying. For drug offenses, the wait time used to be 10 years, but the new bill would drop it to 5 years. The timeframe for other crimes has not changed: 7 years for eligible felonies and 3-5 years depending on the classification of misdemeanor offense. This would help people who wish to turn their life around have a better chance at getting a job without having to worry about their background check.
The current process is very costly and redundant. The applicant must follow a five page checklist where the victims, prosecutors, Adult Probation and Parole, and judges weigh in on whether to grant the expungement or not. It appears, however, that there is little to no uniformity in the forms between courts, leading to an overwhelming amount of paperwork for the applicant. On top of the paperwork, there is also a $50 application fee and $56 charge for a certificate stating that each crime is eligible for expungement. The expungement itself costs $179 for each crime. These fees can add up, and for people who have been unable to find employment because of their background checks, these fees make it prohibitively expensive to clear their records. Even if they receive a full and unconditional pardon, claimants must still go through the entire expungement process in order to clear their record.
The new bill would not change the process or which crimes can be expunged. Instead, it will "recognize the board's authority to forgive a criminal past, ending what is now a duplicative expungement process and reducing expenses for those who get a pardon." This will hopefully streamline the process for those applicants who have turned their life around and are seeking gainful employment as almost all jobs require a background check of some kind.
Although this process could potentially remove the records of many criminals from public view, businesses would still be able to rely on products from backgroundchecks.com such as the US Offender OneSEARCH, because sex crimes cannot be removed. With this tool, companies would be notified of any sex-related convictions on an applicant’s record no matter where in the U.S. it took place. They can also still use the US OneSEARCH tool, which accesses more than 450 million criminal records across the nation, to look for violent crimes and other non-expungeable offenses that might make a potential employee a danger to their clients.
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Author: Michael Klazema
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