The Utah Legislature passed several bills during the 2022 session that will help those who are poor and disadvantaged rise up to become free and prosperous.
One is Senate Bill 35–Expungement Modifications. This bill sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler makes the process easier for people to obtain expungement who qualify for it. The State has found that as many as half of the people who begin that process abandon it after beginning because it is too cumbersome or complex.
This bill will make that process simpler and more automatic in some cases, while also keeping protections that help maintain public safety. Expungement is an important step for people who have been incarcerated and need a fresh start without built-in disadvantages; otherwise, they have a very difficult time finding employment and housing and often end up having repeated troubles with the law and/or remain poor.
Another bill is HB 359–Eviction Records Amendments, sponsored by Marsha Judkins. This bill allows for a person with an eviction to have it expunged automatically only if the entire eviction case has been dismissed, no appeal is pending, and three years have passed–or the landlord and tenant agree to the expungement.
The bill also allows a landlord or tenant to petition to expunge the eviction, but only if the eviction was due to a lease termination or non-payment of rent, so if the tenant caused damage to the rental or some other harm, then expungement isn’t possible. The tenant also needs to show that any payments have been made, and if any party makes an objection expungement won’t be approved.
This bill is helpful because many people who are poor are unable to pay their rent for a temporary period but end up having an eviction on their record in perpetuity, which makes it difficult for them to obtain housing in the future. If these people have made the landlord whole and tried to act in good faith, then they shouldn’t be disadvantaged in trying to find housing. Or if the eviction was a mistake, it shouldn’t remain on their record.
Utah has made great strides in improving opportunities for expungement and is setting an example for other states around the nation. We should continue these efforts and find other ways to remove barriers for those who genuinely seek to overcome poverty and any unnecessary disadvantages they might have.