Expungement Reform in Arizona: The Empirical Case for a Clean Slate

Sonja B. Starr

Executive Summary

In the past few years, many states have adopted or expanded legislation allowing people who meet certain eligibility requirements to expunge their adult criminal convictions. The latest wave of reforms makes this relief automatic after the requisite number of crime-free years have passed. These laws offer people with records a crucial chance to reintegrate into the community without the permanent albatross of a criminal record. My empirical research in Michigan, conducted with Professor J.J. Prescott, revealed that people receiving expungements saw large jumps in wages and employment and had very low subsequent crime rates—suggesting that expungement can be win-win for the individual and society. Yet Arizona remains an outlier among its sister states in having no expungement policy for otherwise-valid adult convictions—it does not even allow expungement by petition, much less automatically. This Article argues that Arizona should adopt an expungement law, ideally joining the “Clean Slate” movement to make expungement automatic for those legally eligible.

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