People who can’t afford to have criminal convictions taken off their record can get free legal help at a new clinic in December.
The Center for Justice is hosting its first legal clinic to help people apply for certificates of discharge and conviction clearing. Lawyers also can help get their legal financial obligations sorted out, which is the first step to having a conviction removed from the record.
Two Center for Justice board members, family law attorney Cam Zorrozua and criminal defense attorney Alex Biel, will run the event from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 14 at the downtown library.
Both attorneys work to expunge convictions in their practices and were discussing ways to offer their services for people who can’t afford an attorney.
“Everybody deserves a second chance, especially people who have already done their time, paid their fines and really need to start fresh,” Zorrozua said.
To have a conviction vacated, a person must first pay off all legal financial obligations, then get a certificate of discharge from the court.
Depending on the charge, a person has to wait between three and 10 years after that before they’re eligible to have a conviction removed, Biel said. They cannot have any pending criminal charges, and violent crimes or crimes against people are not eligible.
Biel said many people are stuck because their criminal record prevents them from getting a job, which prevents them from paying off their court fines.
“It’s a Catch-22 if I’ve ever seen one,” he said.
Zorrozua said many clients for the clinic are being screened through Shalom Ministries to make sure they qualify. People can drop in to the clinic and learn more about what they need to do to qualify for vacation even if they’re not eligible now, she said.
“A lot of people probably don’t even know that they’re eligible to vacate their record,” she said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.