The arrest of a person deprives them of their liberty or freedom. Arrests also compel individuals to answer charges against them. In Utah, the spectrum of arrests goes from curfew violations, through arson and up to murder. In 2011, most arrests in Utah were for Larceny/Theft: over 18,000 arrests (juveniles and adults). There were 130,520 total arrests reported in Utah in 2011, including 43 arrests for murder or homicide, 242 rape arrests, and 1450 for aggravated assault. However, all of those arrests in just one year do not lessen the fact that there are still many outstanding arrest warrants.
Some organizations (and, sometimes, individuals) seek information on others’ arrest records and outstanding warrants. Sometimes people suspect there is a warrant for their arrest, or wish to clear their record. A telephone, a computer, transportation to a records office, even a simple pen and paper are all viable tools for finding information about arrest warrants. How far a search proceeds depends upon many factors, from the reasons for seeking such information to the person’s ability to think through the process.
Utah Arrest Warrants
A Brief Description
Chapter 7, Section 5 of Title 77 of the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure covers arrests and warrants. An Arrest warrant in Utah is a court issued document authorizing the police to arrest the named individual. The first requirement is for law enforcement personnel to present convincing evidence to a court of the reasonable likelihood that the person named in the warrant committed a crime. Allegations of Probable Cause that the subject of the warrant committed a specific offense are necessary. Warrants are always subject to the rules of court of the jurisdiction of the issuing court. In identifying the person to be arrested, the warrant must either name the person or else describe them in a manner that facilitates their identification with reasonable certainty.
The object of the court in issuing an arrest warrant in Utah is to take the named person into custody. Warrants may be issued at the commencement of a case, or because of an individual’s failure to appear in court on a set date, or if a defendant fails to comply with an order of the court. Specific rules apply as to the circumstances of arrests. Felony arrests upon a warrant may be executed at any time, whereas nighttime misdemeanor arrests are permissible only under certain circumstances. Except in limited circumstances, at the time a law enforcement officer makes an arrest, he or she must inform the arrested individual of the intention, cause, and authority to arrest. The arrestee is then transported to the proper jurisdiction, usually that of the court that issued the warrant, for further judicial proceedings.
Finding Outstanding Warrants in Utah
In some cases, the first time someone learns of a warrant for their arrest is when law enforcement officers take them into custody. However, for those who suspect that there is a warrant with their name on it, Utah makes it easy to find outstanding warrants. The Utah Department of Public Safety provides a secure online service for warrant searches by name at https://secure.utah.gov/warrants/index.html;jsessionid=7c1fe4f8c7a480486f55abb71eb5.The Sheriff’s offices of the 29 counties in the state of generally refer inquiries about arrest warrants in Utah to the statewide warrant search on the DPS site. Of course, there are other ways of accessing warrant information. In many cases, a phone call to a sheriff’s office may suffice. There are even smart phone apps linking users to the database Utah law enforcement officers use to check for warrants. However, the reliability of such services is unknown at this time.
Contents of a Criminal Record
The contents of criminal records vary between jurisdictions. Both the United States federal government and state governments maintain criminal records. However, generally, a criminal record is a compilation of arrest records, other police records and investigations, charges and convictions for criminal offenses brought against an individual, detentions and incarcerations. In Utah, court records also include traffic offenses.
Obtaining Criminal Records in Utah
For individuals, obtaining a copy of their own Utah criminal history is straightforward. Requests can be made in person or by mail at: Bureau of Criminal Identification, 3888 West 5400 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84129.Their phone number is 801-965-4445.However, commonly, potential employers wish to investigate an applicant’s possible criminal record. The Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification sets forth the limited circumstances under which an employer may obtain employees’ criminal records:
- If the employee works with children and/or vulnerable adults
- If the employee’s job deals with Fiduciary Funds, National Security, or Statutory Authority,
For all other employers, the BCI recommends that they ask potential employees to apply for a copy of their criminal history.
Expunging Criminal Records
Data in a criminal history record will not disappear without some outside action. An individual must take steps to remove items from their record.
The word “expunge” means to completely remove or erase something. However, the use of the word as to criminal records is actually misleading. Under the Utah Expungement Act, even if a criminal record is legally “expunged” it does not mean it has disappeared. Expunction only means that all of the parts of a record to do with the expunged charge are sealed. Utah arrest records, the investigation of the crime, conviction and incarceration are sealed and thus are no longer available for public view. However, certain officials still may view and copy sealed records. Furthermore, courts can unseal records in certain circumstances.
Individuals who know they have a criminal record in Utah often wonder what they must include when filling out job applications or loan documents. Expungement has no effect on non-government records, such as news stories and such. Notwithstanding this, if an individual’s records are expunged by the State of Utah, they may act as if there was never any arrest and/or conviction as far as the expunged items are concerned.
The Utah Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Identification has the power to expunge criminal records. Whether or not an individual is eligible for a record expunction depends upon that person’s entire criminal history and not just those crimes reported in Utah. It also considers prior expungements along with a thorough background check. Individuals seeking expungement of an arrest record, investigation, traffic offenses, a detention or a conviction first must obtain from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification a certificate of eligibility. Applications are accepted at the Utah Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Criminal Identification, 3888 W 5400 S, Taylorsville, UT 84129.There is a $50 application charge for the application and an additional fee of $56 to issue the certificate if the individual is eligible.
According to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification’s Criteria for a Certificate of Eligibility, many offenses cannot be expunged, including:
- Capitol offenses
- First degree felonies
- Violent felonies
- Automobile homicide
- Felony DUI
- Registerable sex offenses
There is also a waiting period before certain offenses may be expunged .A Misdemeanor DUI has a waiting period of 10 years. For a Felony, the wait is 7 years, for a Class A misdemeanor, it is 5 Years, and a Class B misdemeanor is 4 years. A Class C misdemeanor or infraction is only 3 years. However, in certain instances, an arrest record may require only 30 days for expungement if there are no intervening arrests.
Once the individual seeking expungement receives the Certificate of Eligibility, they must file a petition with the court. They then must give notice of their petition to the district attorney who handled the case, and the prosecutor, in turn, must provide notice to the victim of the crime. From there, if there is no objection, the court grants the petition to expunge the record. If there is an objection to the petition, the matter proceeds to a court hearing. Following the hearing, if there is clear and convincing evidence that “…the petition and certificate of eligibility are sufficient; and that…the statutory requirements have been met; and that…expunging the records is not contrary to public interest…” the court enters an order to expunge the record. The individual who sought expungement has the responsibility of providing the expungement order to any agencies with records affected by the order. Without a copy of the order, an agency has no requirement to seal the records. The Utah Courts list the following as agencies that should likely receive a copy of the expungement order:
- The law enforcement agency that performed the arrest, such as the police, a county sheriff, or Highway Patrol officer
- The booking agency (typically the county jail)
- The Department of Corrections
- The Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) (which, in turn, will provide a list of agencies impacted by the order)
- The Driver License Division
However, this is not an exhaustive list, and the petitioner has the responsibility to find interested agencies.
Once there is an order and the records are sealed, any inquiries as to arrest or conviction records will be answered as if they never happened. However, the records are not actually destroyed. The expunged records are put into an envelope, which is then securely sealed and identified with the case number. According to the UT Courts website, “Not to be opened except upon permission of the court” is inscribed across the seal.