Advocates rally for passage of the clean slate legislation (Christine Stuart Photo)

State officials have too many questions about how to implement the Clean Slate legislation that will lead to the automatic erasure of certain low-level crimes and are asking the General Assembly for clarification. 

The legislature passed legislation that would automatically erase the records of thousands of Connecticut residents convicted of misdemeanors, Class D and E felonies, and a handful of other unclassified felonies in 2021 and again in 2022. However, there are unanswered questions that will delay the process beyond the Jan. 1, 2023 deadline. 

In a Nov. 28 letter, the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board, asked the co-chairs of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee five questions that they believe require legislative input before the system is completed. 

The first is whether “paper records must be examined for each potential erasure, as a person could possibly have outstanding sentence components not contained in available electronic records.” 

They also want to clarify whether erasure of the record would still require a sex offender or deadly weapon offender to register. 

“One possible conclusion is that, since registration is ‘not part of the sentence,’ the fact that a defendant is subject to a registration requirement would not block that person from receiving Clean Slate erasure while the registration period continues,” Judge Patrick Carroll and Marc Pelka, co-chairs of the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board, wrote. “If the legal effect of erasure is to terminate any associated registration requirements, then an entire class of defendants may thus have registration requirements terminated early due to Clean Slate.” 

The second question is about the sentence-completion language, which says does not define the consequences of a criminal conviction that must be completed before eligibility to receive Clean Slate erasure occurs. 

The third question says “it is not explicitly noted whether the offenses’ classifications apply to current classification or classification at the time of conviction.”  

A fourth seeks to address what the legislature meant by an “unclassified felony.” And the fifth asks about timing. It ponders whether a person “in jail or released on bond pending adjudication of a new charge could receive Clean Slate erasure of earlier charges if they complete the minimum waiting period while awaiting trial.”

Carroll and Pelka asked the legislature to weigh in before implementing the sweeping changes through technology. 

Sen. Gary Winfield, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, will hold a press conference Wednesday morning to criticize the delay, which he says has the potential to undermine that important racial and economic justice impact and foster speculation, cynicism, and misinformation.  

The state already invested $5 million to implement the technology upgrades as part of a large-scale system development spanning multiple state agencies.

The state does have enough of the system in place to automatically erase, either partially or fully, the cannabis possession convictions of about 44,000 residents. 

“On January 1, thousands of people in Connecticut will have low-level cannabis convictions automatically erased due to the cannabis legalization bill we enacted last year,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a press release Tuesday. “Especially as Connecticut employers seek to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings, an old conviction for low-level cannabis possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and educational aspirations.”

However, those other convictions for crimes that hold prison sentences of less than five years are giving policymakers pause on how to implement the law. 

“Along with the complexity and intensive effort to make the necessary IT upgrades, the implementation process has surfaced substantial questions regarding the best interpretation of the statute,” Carroll and Pelka wrote. 

Further information on Clean Slate and cannabis erasures, including implementation updates and instructions for filing petitions, will soon be provided on a forthcoming state website.