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March 28, 2023

Here’s what to know about CT’s ‘clean slate’ law, which erases some criminal records

JADEN EDISON | CT MIRROR Supporters of Connecticut's 'clean slate law' gather for a press conference, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in New Haven’s Community Baptist Church.

Connecticut’s ‘clean slate’ law, which is designed to erase certain criminal records after a period of time, took effect earlier this year but has yet to be fully implemented.

Here’s what to know about the law.

What is CT’s ‘clean slate’ law?

The legislation will automatically erase criminal records seven years after the date of a conviction for a misdemeanor or 10 years after the date of a conviction for certain class D, class E or unclassified felonies if they have not been convicted of other crimes.

If a person commits another crime, the clock resets, and they must remain conviction-free for seven or 10 years from that point onward.

Any person with convictions prior to Jan. 1, 2000, must petition the court to erase their record.

Prior to passage of the law in Connecticut, erasure of one’s criminal record could either come through submitting a pardons application or both submitting the application and having a hearing before the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The level of the crime determined which option was available to whom.

What have its supporters argued?

Clean slate’s supporters have frequently highlighted the need to help people formerly convicted of crimes earn an education, maintain a job and attain housing — and to not punish them further when they have already faced consequences.

A study from Michigan, which passed a clean slate law in 2020, found that less than 1% of people who had a violent crime expunged from their records were reconvicted of another violent crime five years after they were cleared.

What have its opponents argued?

Those in opposition to early versions of the bill sought a narrow list of eligible crimes, rather than including more serious felonies as the House initially proposed.

Gov. Ned Lamont especially favored a tapered list of nonviolent crimes and said the list could expand after seeing results from the initial effort.

When did ‘clean slate’ become law?

The clean slate bill progressed through the 2021 legislature following pitched battles among lawmakers over which crimes should be eligible for expungement.

Lamont signed the current version of the bill into law during the summer of 2021. At the time, it was supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

When will it be fully implemented?

The Lamont administration announced in December 2022 that some erasures wouldn’t happen until the second half of 2023.

Instead, the governor said in a press release at the time, only records in approximately 44,000 cannabis-related cases would be fully or partially erased.

In January, Lamont publicly committed to fully implementing the law within the next year.

Why was full implementation delayed?

Lamont said in the December press release that implementation involves “significant information technology upgrades” to allow criminal justice agencies to send and receive data, which helps determine whose prior convictions get erased.

The delay is also partly a result of several legal and policy questions, according to a letter sent in November from the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board to the Judiciary Committee.

Who is affected by the delay?

The delay disproportionately affects Black residents with felony convictions.

Advocates have highlighted how race lies at the foundation of who’s punished in Connecticut. The state’s Black men have a 48% conviction rate, and both Black women and men are more than three times more likely than their white counterparts to have a felony conviction — despite accounting for less than 13% of the state population.

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