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Lawyers applaud changes to Utah expungement laws

Lawyers applaud changes to Utah expungement laws

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Mar. 31, 2010 at 8:57 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A newly signed law will make it easier for people to bury past criminal mistakes.

Lawyers are hailing HB21 as "one of the fairest" and "forward thinking" expungement laws in the country.

They are pointing to two key changes. One allows a mandatory waiting period to begin after a sentence has been completed. Until now, the law mandated that all restitution and fines were paid before the waiting period could begin.

"The waiting period is a time to show rehabilitation," said attorney Mathew Higbee with Higbee and Associates. "The Utah Legislature said, hey, the ability to have money and discretionary income is not a sign of rehabilitation."

Higbee, who specializes in expungement cases, told KSL's "Nightside" Tuesday that modification alone is a big deal for people looking to reboot their lives.

"They could reach their potential by doing things like getting student loans that they might not otherwise qualify for, receive housing that they might not otherwise be able to get, and - most importantly - be able to get employment," Higbee said.

Lawyers say the other significant change is one that allows judges to treat multiple offenses as one episode for the purpose of expungement.

"The previous law would have required a judge to treat each occurrence as separate, which resulted in many rehabilitated people being denied expungement," Higbee said.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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