Vermont Legal Aid (VLA) holds expungement clinics because old records are unnecessarily punishing for Vermonters – emotionally & economically. These criminal records interfere with getting a job, housing, food assistance and other aspects of life. Previously, each expungement form was completed by hand, and it would take hours to process for each person. With ExpungeVT, clinic attorneys are rapidly generating printable forms in order to serve more Vermonters faster. The continuation of this project is aimed at fine-tuning this tool and opening up its use to a larger audience of pro and low bono attorneys.
Our ExpungeVT effort begins with a simple, non-invasive project that allows expungement attorneys to automatically generate the printable forms required for expunging a record. This method has shaved an hour or more off the process for each client served at an expungement clinic.
This solution was accomplished by creating a browser plugin that populates the correct form with the necessary criminal record data information and displays it as an HTML page. The attorneys then review the form, add information about the ‘petitioner’ client, print the form, and sign where required.
Creating online tools to identify and reconcile expungeable records is significantly complicated by the fact that Vermont does not yet provide free digital access to its public criminal records. Like many legal organizations, VLA uses a third party vendor to get digital access to public records, so Code for BTV needed to find a way to help while respecting the agreement between the vendor and the judiciary. We chose to use a browser plugin because it does not require storing or processing the licensed information outside of the browser, and no persistent information is created.
We hope this project in its final form will be a lasting and widely adopted solution that continues to make it easier for Vermonters to clear old records that encumber their lives.
Client: Vermont Legal Aid
Project Manager: Scott Friedman
Tech Lead: Jake Durell & Micah Mutrux