Connecticut residents with a misdemeanor or low-level felony conviction on their record have just been given a chance at a fresh start. The new Clean Slate Legislation in Connecticut will create a path to expungement and give residents an escape from the life-long consequences of a criminal conviction.
Advocates and attorneys have long understood the life-long impact of any criminal conviction. Even having a misdemeanor on your record can affect your ability to sign a lease, land a job, or get approved for a loan. The effects of a felony conviction go further, affecting your right to vote, possess firearms, and qualify for public benefits. As more and more companies build background checks into their qualifications, a clean record has become essential to living a fulfilling life. Once that record is tarnished, Connecticut residents face consequences that last far longer than any jail sentence or probation order.
“Clean Slate” legislation has been introduced in states across the country. These proposed laws would create opportunities for those with criminal convictions in their past to wipe the slate clean and get a second chance at the opportunities available to those without a criminal history. As of early 2021, there were Clean Slate laws on the books in Michigan, Utah, and Pennsylvania, and Clean Slate legislation had been proposed in Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, New York, Oregon, Delaware, and here in Connecticut, too.
To understand the effects of the Connecticut Clean Slate legislation, you need to understand how the Connecticut pardon system works now. Pardons (sometimes also called expungement or erasure) give those convicted of crimes in Connecticut a chance to erase their adult criminal convictions after maintaining a clean record for 3 years after the date of conviction for a misdemeanor, or 5 years after the disposition of their most recent felony conviction.
The Connecticut pardon process is complicated. It requires petitioners to describe and explain every crime in their history, pay a fee, and obtain Connecticut State Police Criminal History Report. Realistically, petitioners would need to hire criminal defense attorneys to help them gather the necessary records and advocate on their behalf. Even then, the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parolees can deny their application for an Absolute Pardon or Certificate of Employability. There is no guarantee that they will be determined eligible and suitable for expungement.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamot, and State Senator Gary Winfield recognized the burden the pardon process put on state residents. Last year -- just weeks before COVID-19 swept the nation -- they each proposed Clean Slate legislation designed to give Connecticut residents a second chance. Gov. Lamont proposed an automatic erasure bill that would wipe away Class C and D misdemeanor convictions such as third-degree trespassing or operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.
Winfield’s Clean Slate legislation was broader than the Governor’s, including most misdemeanors and some low-level felonies. As originally proposed, the bill would have automatically cleared the convictions of residents’ records after they had been conviction-free for approximately 7 years. As often happens in the state legislature, the bill was significantly amended before it passed in both the Connecticut House and Senate. The final version, which Gov. Lamont signed into law on June 10, 2021, is narrower, but it still allows for most misdemeanors and some felonies to be automatically expunged after 7 or 10 years.
The new CT Clean Slate Law won’t become effective until January 1, 2023. Over the next year and a half, the state will be building the data processing and procedural systems to allow for the automatic erasure.
Once it goes into effect, the Clean Slate Law will give Connecticut residents another option to clear their criminal history -- one that does not require a complicated petition to the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parolees. Instead, if a resident has maintained a clean record for the designated waiting period (based on the nature of their last conviction and sentence), then that conviction will be automatically removed from the State Police Criminal History Report.
This automatic expungement will allow more than 400,000 Connecticut residents, including a disproportionate number of Black and minority residents, a second chance at a meaningful life. By removing the barriers created by a felony or misdemeanor conviction, the law will let these residents find the homes, jobs, and opportunities they need to provide for themselves and their families.
Based in Fairfield, Connecticut, The Lebedevitch Law Firm works closely with Connecticut residents struggling to overcome criminal convictions in their history. We can help you review your criminal history, determine if the Clean Slate legislation will apply, and petition the Board of Pardons to get you relief sooner. Contact us for a free phone or video conference consultation.