SUNDAY FOCUS: People can put criminal past behind them in the new year

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SUNDAY FOCUS: People can put criminal past behind them in the new year

BY PAUL HUGHES REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

December 31, 2022

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WATERBURY, CT 123022JS03 Waterbury Superior Court. Jim Shannon Republican-American

With the new year, tens of thousands of people in Connecticut will be able to put their criminal pasts behind them, and moving forward others convicted of future crimes will have the same opportunity.

The state’s “Clean Slate” law that takes effect today, New Year’s Day, will allow reformed offenders convicted of a lengthy list of misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions to have their criminal records automatically erased.

The law provides for the automatic erasure of the covered misdemeanor convictions after seven years following someone’s most recent conviction and the applicable felonies after 10 years.

To start, state officials and advocates of criminal justice reform estimate that approximately 300,000 state residents are expected to benefit from the expungement law that the legislature and Gov. Ned Lamont enacted in 2021.

While the new laws are now taking effect, the automated erasure system is taking longer to get up and running, so state officials say there will be processing delays.

WATERBURY, CT 123022JS02 Waterbury Superior Court. Jim Shannon Republican-American

It is expected to take 60 days to erase the 44,000 simple cannabis possession cases, but some members of the initial group of 300,000 former offenders covered under the Clean Slate law are going to have to wait until the second half of 2023 to have their criminal records expunged.

In addition, an estimated 44,000 low-level convictions for cannabis possession are eligible for automatic erasure under a “Clean Slate” provision in the 2021 state law that legalized recreational use and sales of cannabis for adults age 21 and older.

Individuals who have certain other cannabis-related convictions on their records also now have the opportunity to file petitions in Superior Court to have their records expunged, too.

The opportunities to expunge past criminal records are intended to help state residents who face difficulties obtaining work, housing, credit and an education because of criminal convictions. Residents who have had their records erased may tell employers, landlords, and schools that the conviction never occurred.

The expungement law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and the granting of credit based on an erased criminal record.

CLEAN SLATE Q&A

Q. Exactly what kind of past criminal convictions are eligible to erased under the Clean Slate law?

A. The 2021 law effective in January provides for the automatic erasure of a lengthy list of misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions for former offenders who are able to stay out of legal trouble for a specified number of years.

Eligible offenses include most misdemeanors, most Class D and Class E felonies, and most unclassified felonies with a possible prison sentence of five years or less. Family violence crimes and all sexual offenses requiring sex offender registration are excluded.

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Covered misdemeanor convictions are eligible for erasure after seven years and the applicable felonies after 10 years following someone’s most recent conviction.

For a person with multiple convictions on his or her record, some convictions may be eligible for erasure, and some may not.

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