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Utahns who successfully turn their lives around after serving time for drug offenses may be able to cleanse their criminal records more easily if a proposed bill becomes law.

SB159, unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, changes the number and type of drug offenses eligible for expungement. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eric K. Hutchings, R-Kearns, also clarifies that a pardon from the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole has the same effect as a court-approved expungement.

"We are opening that door a little bit wider only in the case of drug offenses," Hutchings said.

DeLone Cates told the committee her son is currently struggling to get his record expunged. It's been 13 years since his drug offense, Cates said, and "he's been perfectly good all that time."

Her son, who now lives in another state, had a stroke a year ago but is now trying to get a job, Cates said. But the cost and logistics of clearing his record is proving difficult, she said.

"I wish they were able to do it more easily," Cates said.

Mary Jo McMillen, executive director of the USARA Recovery Community Center, called the bill "exciting" for those trying to truly make changes in their lives, as did Sen. Daniel W. Thatcher, R-West Valley City.

"They need to see light at the end of the tunnel," said Thatcher, who called SB159 "one of the best bills we're going to see this year."

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