Erica Marthage

Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage 

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BENNINGTON — Most second chances in life can’t erase the mistakes we’ve made. But Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage will host a free expungement clinic for Bennington County residents who were convicted of mostly nonviolent crimes in the past and now want to permanently clear their records.

Old criminal records prevent many Vermonters from obtaining jobs, housing or educational opportunities. The legal process of expungement or sealing of criminal records allows for specific convictions and dismissed charges to be wiped clean from someone’s record after a certain amount of time has passed.

The upcoming clinic will be held April 8.

“The clinic is a chance to help screen and assist members of the community in seeing if they qualify for expungement of their past criminal record,” said Marthage. “We want to acknowledge those individuals that may have made a poor choice in the past, but have since become upstanding citizens. We really want to reach those with specific convictions that are considered ‘qualifying,’ including all misdemeanors, and some specific felonies, nonviolent crimes, some of the things we might have done during a difficult period in our lives when we were younger that still might have an effect of our daily life.”

The clinic will focus exclusively on expunging criminal charges and convictions from Bennington County only and will be open to the public by appointment.

Attorneys from the state and representatives from the Center for Restorative Justice, a partner in the clinic, are offering free assistance with petitions for Vermont-specific qualifying criminal convictions and dismissed charges. Vermonters who think they might qualify should schedule appointments in advance by calling the Attorney General’s Office’s expungement clinic line at 802-828-0033 by Monday. Appointments will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Interviews will be conducted by telephone on the day of the clinic.

Under Vermont law, many misdemeanors, 14 different felony offenses and all dismissed charges can be expunged permanently if the cases meet certain qualifications. Other offenses, some of a more serious nature, can sometimes be “sealed” instead of expunged. Sealing records allows the court to retain the records internally in case of further charges but keep them sealed from public view. That includes most background checks for employment and credit checks.

“It will still be there, but it will be only kept internally and for certain federal purposes, such as gun purchase checks,” Marthage said.

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Some convictions are not allowed by Vermont law to be sealed or expunged, including most felonies, violent crimes, more than one drunk-driving conviction, cases that involved serious injury or death, and any sexually exploitive charges.

“Even if you have a felony conviction, you could be eligible. Something like grand larceny, unlawful mischief, most drug possession convictions, even a burglary into an empty building can be expunged or sealed if that person hadn’t had any other legal charges for a period of time,” Marthage said. “Most predicate offenses, like domestic assault or abuse, or stalking, would not be eligible, even if it were charged as a misdemeanor.”

“The people we are targeting are individuals who have had a prior conviction but have otherwise maintained a law-abiding life afterward,” Marthage said. “Everyone does ridiculous things at one point in their life. If you have moved on and stayed out of trouble, we might be able to help. Also, if you were convicted and were under the age of 21, you’re automatically qualified on almost any offense, including felonies. Those may not be expunged, but they can, in most cases, be sealed.”

“It’s important to note,” Marthage went on to say, “that the federal government does not follow the state on this. If you, say, applied for a federal gun permit, or you were applying for a federal government job or security clearance, the record would still be there, even with an expungement. That’s just how it works.”

“There are also multiple jurisdictional issues that need to be addressed before any charges are expunged,” said Marthage. “First and foremost, we need to know if this is a qualifying crime. After we settle that, it’s then a matter of finding which way we can go. We also reach out to any victim, if there is one, to get their input.”

This is the second time Marthage has run the clinic. The first one in 2018 cleared over 50 records.

“Each year after that, even without the clinic, we’ve averaged 50 expungements or sealings. The truth is, people can reach out to my office or the Center for Restorative Justice anytime to see if their charges qualify,” Marthage said. “This clinic is just a specific place and time we are available to help get the word out on this for the community.”


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