Legal clinic offers a chance for a clean slate

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HYDE PARK, Vt. (WCAX) Some Vermonters are getting a second chance as part of an expungement clinc held in Hyde Park.

Nearly 70 residents from Lamoille and Chittenden Counties convicter of minor offenses in the past, started the process to get their record wiped clean on Friday.

"I'm here for a chance to have a better opportunity to have better things and better outcomes in my life," said Jerme Slaughter of Burlington.

"We are trying to expunge some stupidness we did when we were teenagers," said Liza Rathburn of Johnson.

Slaughter and Rathburn showed up to start the process and move past crimes they say they did when they were younger and in different situations. Both say that the expungment clinic will help them and their kids to have a better life.

"It allows me to help pay my child support. It allows me to be a better contributing community member," Slaughter said.

"I can actually go on their field trips -- it's amazing," Rathburn said.

The Vermont Attorney General's office hosted the expungment clinic. Under Vermont law, many misdemeanors, 14 different felony offenses, and all dissmissed charges can be wiped off a person's record.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan says that when it comes to small crimes, the criminal justice system has hurt people as a result of these old records. "It's fine to hold people accountable, but in no way did we ever expect these records would follow people for the rest of their lives, that would keep them from getting a job for oftentimes a mistake they made at 16, 17, 18 years-old," he said.

Lawyers from the AG and Lamoille County State's Attorney's offices met with residents with charges originating in Chittenden and Lamoile Counties more than five years ago.

"Those criminal records follow people the rest of their lives. They keep people marginolized, they limit economic oppertunity," Donovan said.

I asked whether there is concern that peple will turn back to crime after having their records expunged. Donovon says he trusts people to do the right thing. "lets trust people to do the right thing, lets give people an opportunity to be productive members of the community," he said.

A new opportunity appreciated by these Vermonters. "I have not been able to be a vaulable asset in their lives, but with things changing, we will see," Slaughter said.

The paperwork filled out on Friday heads to a judge next.