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Wyoming Passes Expungement Bill

March 25, 2019
Courtney McSwain


During the 2019 Wyoming legislative session, NJJN member Wyoming Children's Law Center, Inc. (WYOCLC) celebrated the passage of WY HB0044which simplifies the expungement process by allowing prosecutors to petition for expungement instead of putting the burden on the young person. 

Advocates spent years working to make youth records more confidential.  Eventually, a community of prosecutors rallied behind the bill, led by Albany County Prosecutor Peggy Trent. “Prosecutor Peggy Trent made this her fight,” says Donna Sheen, Director/Attorney at WYOCLC, which began working closely with Albany County prosecutors in 2015, thanks to a grant from the Open Society Foundation.  

WYOCLC had launched a “Transformative Youth Justice Objective Criteria for Prosecutors Project,” which aims to help prosecutors develop uniform prosecution criteria for determining how to process cases where youth are in trouble with the law, reduce system bias and implement a positive youth development response to youth behavior. Through the work of the project, WYOCLC was able to help Trent find ways for more structured decision-making and identify areas of improvement such as simplifying the expungement process.  

As a prosecutor, Trent found it frustrating that she couldn't expunge a citation within a young person's record, even if she dismissed it; nor did Wyoming statute allow her to petition for removal on her own. Allowing prosecutors to petition for expungement upon successful diversion program completion, would help Trent and other prosecutors create an incentive for young people to complete the state's diversion programThe legislation also got rid of the state filing fee, so cost of expunging a record no longer stands as an impediment for those who cannot afford to pay to get their record expunged on their own. 

Now that the bill has passed, Sheen hopes the publicity and endorsement from Trent will propel prosecutors throughout the state to incorporate the changes into their processes. "Hopefully, we'll be able to offer assistance with writing policies to support the implementation of these changes. I think the stage is set for prosecutors to help youth expunge records."  

What’s next for WYOCLC? 

WYOCLC’s next big focus is a new initiative developing with the Wind River Tribes to help rethink school discipline, tribal court and juvenile court issues as they impact students with disabilities, including those with substance abuse or other disorders.  

Want to find out more about WYOCLC? Visit them online 


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