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New law, app hopes to make it easier for people to clear their criminal records

Addicted Utah:{ }A new law & a new app hope to make it easier for people to clear their criminal records (Photo: KUTV)
Addicted Utah: A new law & a new app hope to make it easier for people to clear their criminal records (Photo: KUTV)
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Criminal justice advocates said over 800,000 people in Utah have a criminal record.

But only a small fraction try to get their charges expunged each year: between two and three-thousand.

"As a teenager, I was just a knucklehead," said Mitchel Staheli, who is in recovery and now works as a finance manager for USARA.

Staheli struggled with addiction at a young age and acquired a list of criminal charges.

"Grew up in a small area; once the cops figure out who you were they were kind of on your case," Staheli said.

He got several charges expunged after he went through drug court and got sober, but the rest have followed him ever since.

"It definitely carries with you," he said.

Staheli found it would costs thousands of dollars to clear all the minor charges left on this record.

"I was like, it's not worth it," Staheli said.

On top of the cost, just figuring out if you are eligible for expungement can be confusing let alone completing all the paper work in time and finding an attorney to help.

"If you've ever thought about expunging your record, now is the time to do it," said Noella Sudbury, who works with Clean Slate Utah and is the CEO of the public benefit company, Rasa.

Sudbury says the expungement process is much cheaper right now, after a bill passed this legislative session that creates a pilot program to waive some expungement fees for a year.

"The only fee that people will have to pay from May 4th, 2022 to June 30th, 2023 is that $65 application fee," said Sudbury. "There will be no other government fees."

Before this change, people paid a $65 application fee, $65 for each certificate from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, and then court filing fees which are between $135-$150 per case you want expunged.

With this pilot program, the nonprofit Clean Slate Utah will help collect data about how people's lives have improved--like in housing and employment--without these fees in hopes to convince lawmakers to make the change permanent.

"We see people whose lives are changed every day by this process," said Sudbury.

Sudbury started Rasa to provide low-cost expungement services for those who don't qualify for the "Clean Slate" law, which automatically clears some records.

Rasa developed an app to make it easier to determine if someone is eligible to clear their records instead of navigating the complicated court system on their own.

"The app demystifies all of that and just says to the person with a record, 'We'll tell you what's on your record and we'll do that analysis for you to tell you what your options are,'" explained Sudbury.

People can also use the app to allow Rasa to represent them in getting their record cleared--instead of paying an attorney--for up to three cases for $500.

"It's such an overwhelming process," said Amy Daeschel, who has been through expungement twice and paid thousands of dollars.

She currently works with Rasa to help others with their own expungement process.

"I hope so many people grasp onto this opportunity," Daeschel said.

She plans to take advantage of the pilot program and Rasa's app for her third--and final--round of expungement.

"I'm looking forward to getting this one done and just be free of it," she said.

For her, knocking down barriers she faced after getting sober is empowering. This last expungement will allow her to become a licensed social worker next year.

"To completely be free, to completely feel that you truly have your life back is a feeling I could never describe to you," said Daeschel.

Rasa app's is in its final testing stages and is expected to launch in June. The court system also has a program called "My Case" to help people check their records.

As for Staheli, he plans to use these new resources to finally get rid of those last charges hanging over him.

"It'll feel good just to like put the past in the past," he said.

For more resources for recovery and addiction, visit the Addicted Utah resources page.

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On June 7th, Rasa is hosting a panel event to discuss the legislation passed and also discuss programs being launchd by Clean Slate Utah. It's free and open to the public and happening in Taylorsville. You can register for the event on Rasa's website.

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