Volume 25

Expungement Law: An Extraordinary Remedy for an Extraordinary Harm

by Mackenzie J. Yee

People who have been convicted of a crime are subject to various collateral consequences due to having a criminal record. These collateral consequences significantly burden an ex-offender’s ability to reintegrate into society after serving a criminal sentence. Because those who end up in the criminal justice system are largely poor people of color, the collateral consequences of a criminal record have the effect of perpetuating poverty and marginalization.1 Part II of this paper discusses the different types of collateral consequences faced by those with a criminal record and looks at their connection to poverty. Part III proposes expungement as an important tool to relieve ex-offenders of the collateral consequences and analyzes the different elements needed for a comprehensive expungement policy. Part IV suggests how comprehensive expungement laws can be advocated for at the state level. It also briefly discusses the possibility for federal expungement law and what states can do about federal criminal records.

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1. See infra Section II.B.