California will soon seal conviction and arrest records for certain ex-offenders that maintain a clean record, a move supporters call the most far-reaching reform of its kind in the nation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Thursday night from Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, allowing people convicted of a felony to have their records automatically sealed if they complete their sentence and remain conviction-free for at least four years. Records of arrest that never resulted in a conviction can be sealed as well.
The law “will give individuals the tools to turn the page on their past and an opportunity to build a new, better life while providing an economic boost in California, including an estimated $20 billion yearly increase to our state’s gross domestic product that it currently misses out on from widespread unemployment and under employment of those with a conviction history,” Durazo said in a statement Thursday night.
The law will take effect July 1, and excludes registered sex offenders and people convicted of serious or violent crimes. Those individuals may still petition to have their records sealed.
Currently, California is one of six states to offer ex-felons ways to seal their records. The four-year implementation is the most progressive in the nation for automatic relief.
Under the new law, law enforcement agencies and schools would have access to the sealed records. But most employers and landlords would not be able to view the records.
Proponents argued that the law will remove barriers on previously incarcerated individuals who often struggle accessing employment, housing and face discrimination when reentering society. Convictions will often surface when landlords, employers and schools conduct background checks.
A criminal record can trigger 5,000 legal restrictions in California, according to Alliance for Safety and Justice, a criminal justice reform group that supported the bill.
“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.”
Little said the group estimates 225,000 people will automatically have a previous conviction sealed, with 1 million having the opportunity to petition for record clearance.
©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.