Salt Lake City Police Trying To Clear Backlog of Expungements

December 26, 2023

The police in Salt Lake City have struggled to expunge the thousands of criminal records they must seal. This struggle has caused a significant backlog, making it difficult for those waiting on the expungements. Those still waiting are hopeful for improved employment and housing opportunities that come with sealed records.

In August, auditors informed the Salt Lake City Police Chief of the progress. However, the 16,000 expungements that had yet to begin increased to 62,000. This number could take many years to complete, upsetting many people still waiting to seal their records. 

It is unknown how many expungements the city’s police have completed; Salt Lake City does not have a process to notify people about the expunged records. Despite this, state law requires the police to inform someone who has served an expungement order of a successfully sealed record. Utah had two options for people who wanted to obtain an expungement before 2019. 

An individual could request the state board of pardons or a judge to expunge an offense. Additionally, people with prosecutions or arrests that did not result in a conviction could have them sealed. However, the Clean Slate Law passed in 2019 invited several changes. This law required the automatic expungement of qualifying low-level offenses committed several years ago.

This process has not been easy. According to a spokesman for the Salt Lake City police, lack of information has slowed the automatic expungement process. One problem concerns the state’s Bureau of Criminal Identification. The Bureau must notify the police of expungement orders. However, it has proven inconsistent when forwarding information, such as case numbers. 

The spokesman said they have become more efficient and shortened the process from 25 steps to four. He also stated that they had addressed expungement orders approved by the board of pardons or a judge. Furthermore, the spokesman explained that the police department prioritized in-person requests. As such, there is no backlog for these cases.

The spokesman also addressed whether Salt Lake City would implement a system to track expungements. The idea stems from similar systems, such as those tracking package deliveries or mail-in ballots. He acknowledged the idea as reasonable and said they could explore it if such a system did not exist.

Auditors suggested the state hire more police to process the expungements. One Salt Lake City Council member said he would support this idea. Regardless, how long it will take to process the expungements remains uncertain.

Employers can help by considering which offenses should disqualify an applicant from being considered for a job. The best way to start a second chance hiring program is to partner with a background check company experienced in this area.

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