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Summary: This article summarizes the new arrest record relief that will become available to hundreds of thousands of convicted felons in California starting on July 1, 2023, under California SB 731.
The bill, SB 731, was introduced by State Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) in March 2021 and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 29, 2022. This new law has created an opportunity for hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of people who have a criminal record and served time in prison for misdemeanors and felonies to “clean their record” and get a new start on life.
The stated purpose of this new law is to amend Sections 44242.5 and 44346 of the Education Code, and to amend Sections 1203.41 and 11105 of, and to amend, repeal, and add Sections 851.93 and 1203.425 of, the Penal Code, relating to criminal records.
This article summarizes some of the practical applications of this new law, identifies who qualifies and explains the process for obtaining arrest record relief.
Having an arrest or criminal record directly affects a person’s ability to get a job, get approved for a loan, rent or buy a house and many other basic needs of life.
Vivian Chow at KTLA News wrote a very nice article posted October 1, 2022, and updated on November 28, 2022, going over some of the political and social aspects of the law:
“A new law signed on Thursday will allow Californians to seal old arrests and convictions from their official records in an effort to give them a fresh start.
Effective as of July 1, 2023, this new law significantly expands automatic sealing eligibility for people who served time in prison. And while people with violent, serious felony records would not be offered the automatic “clean slate,” they could, for the first time, petition to have their records sealed. Virtually all ex-offenders, except registered sex offenders, are now eligible for relief.
The bill, SB 731, was introduced by State Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) in March 2021 and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 27.
The law will automatically seal conviction and arrest records in California once a former offender has “fully completed their sentence and successfully gone four years without further contact with the justice system.”
It also includes arrest records that did not result in a conviction. It does not, however, apply to registered sex offenses or serious felonies. All criminal histories will still be shared with law enforcement.
The law will take effect beginning July 1, 2023.
The new law will allow millions of people to gain employment, housing, education opportunities and more, proponents say.
Officials estimate at least 225,000 Californians will have an old conviction automatically sealed and over one million will be eligible to petition a judge.
“California now has the most comprehensive record sealing system in the nation,” said Jay Jordan, chief operating officer of the Alliance for Safety and Justice. “Millions of Californians will now be able to contribute to this state and its economy, freed from the thousands of counterproductive yet permanent restrictions to opportunity that serve only to destabilize families and undermine our collective safety.”
California now joins seven other states with a similar “Clean Slate” law including Pennsylvania, Utah, Michigan, Connecticut, Delaware, Oklahoma and Colorado. “Millions of Californians are unable to reach their full employment and economic potential due to having an old conviction or arrest record,” supporters said. “SB 731 will give individuals the tools to turn the page on their past and an opportunity to build a new, better life.” Proponents say about one in five Californians are living with a past record, facing around 5,000 legal restrictions, most of which are employment related. Of those restrictions, 73% remain permanent, officials said.
Opponents of the bill argued that keeping those records sealed could put public safety at risk, with some saying that four years was not a long enough period to be sure that previous offenders wouldn’t commit crimes in the future.
But the bill’s supporters say that sealing these non-violent convictions will provide an economic annual boost of around $20 billion to the state’s economy
“SB 731 is about rehabilitation and supporting people to reach their full potential,” said Father Gregory Boyle, S.J., the founder of Homeboy Industries. “Every human being deserves a second chance to rebuild, because people are much more than the worst thing they have ever done. And, this is a second chance felt not only by the person who has served their time, and completed their sentence, it is also about their families and breaking generational cycles, leading to healthier and more just communities.””
There are two ways you can get your record cleared. Through Automatic Sealing by Dept. of Justice or by Petitioning the court. Let’s go over what each of these involve.
For a limited number of people, the law will seal the person’s record automatically as follows:
1. Monthly Reviews
Existing law requires the Department of Justice, on a monthly basis, to review the records in the statewide criminal justice databases and identify persons who are eligible for records of arrest relief without requiring the filing of a petition or motion.
2. Under existing law, a person is eligible for arrest record relief if they were arrested on or after January 1, 1973, and the arrest was
It’s important to note the new law, commencing July 1, 2023, generally make this arrest record relief available to a person who has been arrested for a felony, including a felony punishable in the state prison, as specified.
3. Existing law, commencing January 1, 2022, and subject to appropriation, requires the Department of Justice, on a monthly basis, to review the records in the statewide criminal justice databases and identify persons who are eligible for automatic conviction record relief.
Under existing law, a person is eligible for automatic conviction record relief if, on or after January 1, 1973 if
4. The new law, commencing July 1, 2023, would additionally make this conviction record relief available for a defendant convicted, on or after January 1, 2005, of a felony for which they did not complete probation without revocation if the defendant appears to have completed all terms of:
Additionally, it requires that a period of 4 years has elapsed during which the defendant was not convicted of a new felony offense, except as specified.
The new law specifies that conviction record relief does not release the defendant from the terms and conditions of unexpired criminal protective orders.
Existing law authorizes a defendant who was sentenced to a county jail for the commission of a felony and who has met specified criteria to petition to withdraw their plea of guilty or nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty after the completion of their sentence, as specified.
Existing law requires the court to dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and release them from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense, except as specified.
The new law would make this relief available to a defendant who has been convicted of a felony, as long as that conviction does not require registration as a sex offender and otherwise qualifies for record relief under the new law
D. What are the steps to Petition the Court to clean your record?