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Those Seeking Expungements Under New State Laws Face Backlogs, Fees

A new Stateline piece outlines some of the key challenges of enacting expungement and record-sealing laws. Entitled “High fees, long waits cast shadow over new criminal-expungement laws, the piece notes that increasing numbers of states are making it easier for residents to clear/seal criminal records, with hopes of helping people put mistakes in the past and more easily find jobs and housing. Most laws have passed with bipartisan support, though some critics argue that broadening eligibility for expungements or the sealing of criminal records will put the public at risk by cloaking violent crimes.

At least four states — Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota and New York — passed legislation this year that would make clearing or sealing one’s criminal record easier. Michigan and Ohio also had similar laws go into effect this year. Also, over the past five years, more states have moved to offer automatic expungement or sealing, which generally uses a computer system to wipe or shield people’s criminal records when they become eligible. At least 26 states and the District of Columbia have an automatic system already in place or in the works....

But, as the Stateline piece notes, the new burst of laws has also created some concerns:

“The surge in applications after lawmakers eased rules created a major backlog in several states. Some residents struggle to pay the required fees. And some prosecutors and legislators worry that people who commit additional crimes after their records are expunged may not be held fully accountable.”


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