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Finding Legal Help

You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help. 

Como encontrar ayuda legal

Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.

Expunging Adult Criminal Records

Introduction

Expunging a criminal record means that the court orders the history of the case sealed. This includes:

  • records of the arrest,
  • investigation,
  • detention, and
  • conviction, including a verdict or finding of guilty after trial or a guilty plea.

A person who has had records expunged may tell people the arrest or conviction did not happen. A government agency that has received an expungement order will respond to an inquiry as though that arrest or conviction did not happen.

The expungement order applies only to government agencies. Other records, such as news accounts of an arrest or conviction, are not affected.

After a record is expunged, an agency's sealed records can still be viewed and copied by some government officials, and the court can order the records unsealed under some conditions.

If someone is seeking citizenship, they might need their case unsealed. You are encouraged to talk to an immigration attorney if this applies to you.


When you can ask to expunge an arrest record

You can ask to expunge records of arrest, investigation, and detention for a crime for which there has been no conviction if:

  • at least 30 days have passed since the arrest;
  • there are no criminal cases pending; and
  • one of the following occurred:
    • no charges were filed;
    • charges were filed, but the case was dismissed with prejudice;
    • charges were filed, but the case was dismissed without prejudice or without condition, and
      • the prosecutor consents in writing to issuing a certificate of eligibility, or
      • at least 180 days have passed since the day on which the case was dismissed
    • charges were filed, but the person was acquitted at trial; or
    • the statute of limitations has expired.

Utah Code Section 77-40-104.


When you can ask to expunge a criminal conviction record

You can ask to expunge some, but not all, criminal conviction records. You must first pay all fines, fees, restitution and interest related to the conviction you are trying to expunge.

If you entered a plea in abeyance in your case, make sure your case is dismissed. In some courts, you must file a Motion to Dismiss to ask that the case be dismissed. You can use the forms found on the Motions web page to ask for this.

You cannot expunge records of the following crimes unless you have been pardoned for the offense:

Utah Code Section 77-40-105.

You cannot expunge records of any conviction if:

  • there is a criminal case pending;
  • the petitioner provides false or misleading information on the application for the certificate of eligibility; (It is also a criminal offense to provide false or misleading information on the application.)
  • the petitioner has been convicted in separate criminal episodes of:
    • two or more felonies (other than drug possession);
    • three or more crimes (other than drug possession) of which two are class A misdemeanors;
    • four or more crimes (other than drug possession) of which three are class B misdemeanors; 
    • five or more crimes of any degree (other than drug possession); 
    • three or more felonies for drug possession; or
    • five or more crimes of any degree for drug possession.

There are additional conditions. See Utah Code Section 77-40-105 for a complete list. 

A criminal episode is defined in Section 76-1-401. Also, the following time periods must have passed from the date the petitioner was convicted or released from incarceration, probation or parole, whichever occurred last:

Offense

Time from date petitioner was convicted or released from incarceration, probation or parole, whichever occurred last

Misdemeanor conviction of Subsection 41-6a-501(2)
Felony conviction of Subsection 58-37-8(2)(g)

10 years

Felony

7 years

Class A Misdemeanor or felony drug possession

5 years

Class B Misdemeanor

4 years

Other Misdemeanor or Infraction

3 years

If not eligible for an expungement, a person can consider applying to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for a pardon. The Board has authority to pardon actual convictions but has no authority to pardon arrests or case dismissals that did not result in convictions. For information about pardons and a Pardon Application form, see: www.bop.utah.gov.

A person is entitled to expunge records of all crimes for which the person has been pardoned by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.


How to ask for expungement

The process for asking for an expungement is different from other court processes. Follow the steps very carefully.

Step 1

Apply for and get the Certificate of Eligibility from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification. There is a fee to apply. If you were convicted of a crime, there is another fee to have the certificate issued (unless the charges were dismissed under a plea in abeyance agreement or a diversion agreement).

It can take several months for BCI to process your request. Once you receive your certificate, you will have 90 days from when it was issued to file it, along with the Petition to Expunge Records, with the court. If the certificate expires, you will have to request a new one.

See BCI's Criteria for a Certificate of Eligibility pamphlet on their website. Their expungement flowchart may also be helpful:

  • Expungement Eligibility Flowchart - PDF

If you want to have your certificate of eligibility sent to someone other than yourself, you must also complete BCI's Third Party Release form and submit it with your Application.

Step 2

File your papers with the court. Remember, the certificate of eligibility is valid for only 90 days from the date it is issued. You must file your Petition to Expunge Records before the 90 days are up.

  • Cover Sheet for Civil Actions: Fill out the coversheet. List yourself as the petitioner and the prosecutor's office as the defendant.
  • Petition to Expunge Records: Choose the Petition to Expunge Records that best matches your case from the forms section below. For example, if you were convicted, choose the Petition to Expunge Records (Conviction). Fill it out and bring it with the original of your certificate of eligibility.
  • Order on Petition to Expunge Records: Choose the form that best matches your case.

File your documents with the court that decided the criminal case. If a court case was never filed, file the expungement papers in the district where the arrest occurred.

Use the case number of the case that you are asking to expunge. If there is no case on record the court will assign you a case number.

Make two copies of all of these documents before you file the originals with the court, along with the filing fee. If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you can ask the court to consider waiving that fee. See the Fees and Fee Waiver web page for more information and forms.

Step 3

Take or mail the following documents to the prosecutor's office that handled the criminal case. If you are sending the documents by mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope so they can return the Acceptance of Service and Consent and Waiver of Hearing forms to you if they sign them.

  • Copy of Petition to Expunge Criminal Records that you filed with the court
  • Copy of the certificate of eligibility that you filed with the court
  • Originals of the following documents from the Forms section below, with the headings filled out with your case information:
    • Acceptance of Service
    • Consent and Waiver of Hearing
    • Victim's Statement (if there was a victim in the case)

If no criminal case was filed, you must serve a copy of the petition and a copy of the certificate of eligibility on the county attorney or district attorney of the county in which the petitioner was arrested. The Utah Prosecution Council provides a list of county prosecutors.

Some courts want you to do this step first, before filing your petition with the court. If you go to the prosecutor's office first, after you deliver the papers file the petition, original certificate of eligibility and any documents signed by the prosecutor's office.

Step 4

What happens next depends on how the prosecutor responds.

If the prosecutor…
Then…

Signs a Consent and Waiver of Hearing

File the Consent and Waiver of Hearing, and any other documents you have not already filed.

Files an objection or statement on behalf of the victim or themselves

The prosecutor has 35 days to do so.

The court will schedule a hearing. Bring to the hearing any other documents you have not already filed.

Just signs an Acceptance of Service

The court has to wait 60 days from the date the petition was filed to allow the prosecutor and victim time to file their statements.

File the Acceptance of Service and any other documents you have not already filed. The court might schedule a hearing or might just grant your request.

Does nothing

The court has to wait 60 days from the date the petition was filed to allow the prosecutor and victim time to file their statements.

File the Proof of Service and any other documents you have not already filed. The court might schedule a hearing or might just grant your request.

The court might order the Division of Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) to file a written response to the petition. The response will include the reasons probation was terminated, and whether the petitioner has completed all requirements of sentencing, probation or parole. AP&P will serve  the response on the petitioner, the prosecuting attorney and the victim. The petitioner may file a reply to the AP&P response within 14 days after receiving it.

If a hearing is scheduled, be sure to attend. Be ready to explain to the court why there is clear and convincing evidence that:

  • the petition and certificate of eligibility are sufficient;
  • the statutory requirements have been met;
  • other case specific requirements have been met; and that
  • expunging the records is not contrary to public interest.

Bring to the hearing any other documents you have not already filed.


If the court grants your request

If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

If the court grants your request it will enter an order to expunge the your records of arrest, investigation, detention, or conviction held by any state, county, or local government entity.

The expungement order does not:

  • affect any administrative proceedings of which the petitioner had notice before issuance of the order;
  • affect the enforcement of an order issued by an administrative body before issuance of the expungement order; or
  • remove any evidence relating to the petitioner which the administrative body has used or may use.

Certified Copies of the Order

Deliver the order to any agencies with records of the criminal incident. If an agency does not receive the expungement order, they are not required to seal their records. You must deliver the order to any agencies with relevant records. Get as many certified copies of the order as there are agencies with records.

Get the certified copies as soon as the order is entered and before the case is sealed. Once the case is sealed you can only get copies of the order by filing a petition to unseal the record. There is a fee for each certified copy, unless it is waived by the court.

You may pick up certified copies of the expungement order at the courthouse or have them mailed. To have certified copies mailed, send a request for a specific number of copies to the clerk of the court and include a self-addressed envelope with sufficient return postage.


Sealing Records

An agency receiving the expungement order must seal or otherwise restrict public access to the relevant records in its possession or expunge all references to the petitioner's name in the records.

An agency receiving the expungement order must seal or otherwise restrict public access to the relevant records in its possession or expunge all references to the petitioner's name in the records.

The court in which the order is entered will automatically seal all related court records. When a court case is sealed, even information about the existence of the case is not publicly available. If anyone asks about the expunged case, court staff will respond as though case does not exist.

To have the records of a government agency sealed, the petitioner must deliver a certified copy of the expungement order on the agency. These might include:

  • the arresting agency (city police; county sheriff, Utah Highway Patrol);
  • the booking agency (county jail);
  • prosecutor's office
  • the Department of Corrections
  • BCI (Attach a copy of the Certificate of Eligibility to the expungement order delivered to BCI.); or
  • Driver License Division.

These webpages list some of the agencies that may have records.

There may be other agencies with records. If an agency does not receive the expungement order, they are not required to seal their records. If requested, the clerk will provide addresses for agencies within the jurisdiction of the court. For other agencies, the petitioner must find the correct address.

BCI will provide written directions to the petitioner along with a list of agencies known to be affected by the order. The petitioner does not have to deliver a copy of the expungement order to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. BCI will forward a copy of the order to the FBI.

Unless otherwise provided by law or ordered by the court to respond differently, a government agency or official who has received an expungement order will respond to an inquiry as though that arrest or conviction did not occur. Unless ordered by a court to do so, a government agency or official who has received an expungement order may not divulge information identifying the petitioner. A person who has had records expunged may respond to an inquiry as though that arrest or conviction did not occur.


Expunging Appellate Records

If a defendant in a criminal case appealed their case to the Utah Court of Appeals or Utah Supreme Court, they may also want to expunge their appellate records. This requires a separate process and does not happen automatically just because the trial court expunged its records.

To do this, the defendant must file a petition with the Utah Supreme Court. This process is governed by Supreme Court Standing Order No. 12.

Requirements

The petitioner must have an order from a district court which expunges their entire trial court record as well as any information in possession of other government entities, such as law enforcement.

The petitioner must file with the Utah Supreme Court and serve on the Utah Attorney General:

  • a written petition,
  • a copy of the expungement petition that was filed with the district court,
  • a certified copy of the district court's expungement order, and
  • a proposed redacted appellate court opinion to replace the previously-published opinion

There are no forms on this website to petition the Utah Supreme Court to expunge appellate records.

Proposed Redacted Opinion

To "redact" information means to obscure it or leave it out. The proposed redacted opinion must replace the petitioner's name with initials, such as "J.C.," or with the pseudonym "Pat Doe."

Additional personal identifying information must also be redacted, including the petitioner's address, birthdate, and government-issued identification numbers, if they were included as part of the original opinion.

The Utah Attorney General's office has 30 days from which they were served to object to the expungement and/or to object to the proposed redacted opinion.

Effect of Appellate Expungement

If the Utah Supreme Court grants the expungement petition, the appellate courts will:

  • Seal any appellate court records, including appellate briefs. No one may access a sealed record except by order of the court.
  • Replace the previously-issued opinion with a redacted opinion.
  • Notify LexisNexis and Westlaw of the redacted opinion. The defendant may notify other publishers about the redacted opinion.

Note: non-government entities (such as legal publishers) do not have an obligation to expunge or redact information in their possession.


Agency Contact Information

To have the records of a government agency sealed, the petitioner must deliver a certified copy of the expungement order on the agency. The following links are to webpages that list some agencies which may have records.


Continued Use of Sealed Records

After sealing, BCI continues to index and maintain all expunged records of arrests and convictions, but the records will not be released to the public. BCI will not divulge any information contained in the expunged records to any person or agency without a court order, unless authorized by statute to do so. Upon request, the following organizations may receive information contained in expunged records:

  • the Board of Pardons and Parole;
  • Peace Officer Standards and Training;
  • federal authorities, unless prohibited by federal law;
  • the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing; and
  • the State Office of Education.

When considering whether to issue a permit to carry a concealed firearm, BCI may use the information in expunged records in determining whether the applicant or permit holder has been or is a danger to self or others.

Expunged records may be released to or viewed by the petitioner, but the petitioner must first obtain a court order to unseal the record. Expunged records may also be released to or viewed by parties to a civil action arising out of the incident, including a law enforcement officer in the officer's defense of a civil action. These parties must first obtain a court order to unseal the record. The information must be kept confidential and used only in the civil action.

If the petitioner is later charged with a felony, the state may petition the court to open expunged records. A court may order expunged records to be opened and admitted into evidence for sentencing. The expunged records are confidential and are available for inspection only by the court, parties, counsel for the parties, and any other person authorized by the court. At the end of the proceeding, the court will order the records resealed.


Forms


Related Information

The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.


Page Last Modified: 12/17/2018
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