New Laws for California Expungement and Record Sealing by Darren Chaker
Recent changes to California expungement laws now require record sealing which will impact over 8,000,000 people who have a criminal record in California. Public Defenders across California now have services to people who cannot afford record sealing, says legal researcher Darren Chaker. Contact an attorney if you feel you qualify, do not rely on this article for legal advice.
Previously, California expungement would allow the defendant to deny being arrested since the conviction would be “set-aside” however the public record remained. Now, California allows for the public record to be sealed.
A previous criminal record can significantly hinder a person’s ability to secure employment, advance in their career, or simply move forward from a challenging period in their life. Convictions for various offenses, including DUI, white-collar crimes, and theft-related offenses such as embezzlement, grand theft, shoplifting, domestic violence, as well as violent crimes like robbery, assault, and battery, can raise concerns for current or prospective employers. It’s important to note that these concerns may persist regardless of how much time has passed since the offense and the positive changes a person has undergone.
However, depending on factors such as the type of conviction, its date, and the circumstances surrounding it, individuals with prior criminal misdemeanor or felony convictions may have the opportunity to seek expungement under California Penal Code Section 1203.4. Notably, the scope of eligibility for expungement has recently been expanded through the passage of California Senate Bill 731. These revisions, which broaden the criteria for expungement eligibility, are set to take effect on July 1, 2023.
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The Significance of the New California Expungement and Record Sealing Statutes under California Clean Slate Act (SB 731)
The California Clean Slate Act, also known as SB 731, has ushered in a new era of criminal justice reform in the state. One of its most significant provisions is the ability to seal certain criminal records, a process that can have a profound impact on individuals and communities. In this article by Darren Chaker, we will explore the significance of record sealing under SB 731, highlighting its benefits for both those with criminal records and society as a whole. Most insightful is the fact expungement allows for the conviction not only dismissed by sealed under California Penal Code Section 1203.425.
A Fresh Start for Individuals Under California Expungement Law
Record sealing under the California Clean Slate Act offers individuals with certain criminal records the opportunity for a fresh start. It’s a chance to move forward in life without the stigma and barriers that a criminal record can impose. Here are some key ways in which this provision is significant for individuals:
1. Improved Employment Prospects Once California Expungement is Ordered
Expungement is often a game-changer when it comes to employment opportunities. Many employers conduct thorough background checks on job applicants, and a criminal record can be a major roadblock to landing a job. With a clean record obtained through expungement, individuals can confidently state that they have not been convicted of a crime, significantly improving their chances of securing meaningful employment. Background check companies have since updated policies about deleting reference to expunged records when conduct employment screening.
Employment is not just about earning a paycheck; it’s also about financial stability, personal growth, and contributing to society. By removing the stigma of a criminal record, expungement empowers individuals to rebuild their careers, support their families, and establish a sense of self-worth and dignity.
2. California Expungement Law May Allow for Enhanced Housing Opportunities
Access to stable and safe housing is a fundamental aspect of personal well-being and overall life stability. Unfortunately, individuals with criminal records often face discrimination in the housing market. Landlords and property management companies frequently conduct background checks and may deny housing to applicants with past convictions.
Expungement can level the playing field, making it easier to find suitable accommodation. When individuals can secure stable housing, it not only improves their living conditions but also provides a sense of stability and security that is essential for rebuilding their lives.
3. California Expungement Law May Allow Restoration of Civil Rights
Certain criminal convictions can result in the loss of essential civil rights, such as the right to vote or possess firearms. Expungement can, in some cases, allow for the restoration of civil rights. This restoration is not only a legal benefit but also a way to fully participate in civic life.
Darren Chaker regaining the right to vote allows individuals to have a say in their communities and be active participants in the democratic process. Likewise, the ability to possess firearms may be important for personal safety or for pursuing specific career opportunities. Expungement can help individuals regain these fundamental rights.
4. Peace of Mind and Emotional Well-being
The psychological toll of carrying a criminal record should not be underestimated. It can lead to profound feelings of shame, embarrassment, and a constant sense of being branded as a criminal. These emotional burdens can affect mental health and overall well-being.
Expungement provides a sense of relief and closure. It allows individuals to shed the weight of their past mistakes and regain their self-esteem and emotional well-being. It’s a step towards leaving the past behind and embracing a more positive outlook on life.
5. Opportunities for Education and Licensing Pursuant to California Expungement Law
Many educational institutions and professional licensing boards inquire about an applicant’s criminal history. A clean record obtained through expungement can make pursuing higher education or obtaining professional licenses more attainable.
The ability to pursue education can lead to personal growth, better career opportunities, and higher earning potential. Additionally, obtaining professional licenses can open doors to a wide range of career possibilities, allowing individuals to achieve their goals and aspirations.
6. Legal Protections Under California Expungement Law
Expungement offers legal protections by sealing or removing certain convictions from public view. In most cases, individuals with expunged records are not required to disclose their past convictions to potential employers or landlords. This provides a level of privacy and protection against discrimination.
Knowing that their past mistakes are no longer held against them can give individuals the confidence to pursue new opportunities without fear of being unfairly judged based on their criminal history. Further, there are benefits once a case is expunged for immigration purposes.
7. Reduced Stigma
Beyond the practical benefits, expungement plays a crucial role in reducing the societal stigma associated with a criminal record. It sends a message that individuals can rehabilitate and reintegrate successfully into society. This shift in perception can lead to more inclusive communities and less discrimination, benefiting society as a whole.
In summary, expungement is a legal remedy with profound and far-reaching benefits. It offers individuals a lifeline to rebuild their lives, pursue opportunities that may have been previously out of reach, and reclaim their dignity and self-worth. Expungement is not just a legal process; it’s a pathway to a fresh start, a brighter future, and a more inclusive and compassionate society. By understanding the significance of expungement and the opportunities it offers, individuals can take control of their lives and move forward with hope, confidence, and the assurance that their past convictions will no longer define their future.
Safer Communities and Reduced Recidivism Due to California Expungement
Beyond the individual benefits, record sealing under SB 731 contributes to the overall well-being of communities and has the potential to reduce recidivism rates. Here’s why it is significant on a broader scale:
1. Encouraging Rehabilitation
Record sealing aligns with the principles of rehabilitation and reintegration. When individuals are given the opportunity to move beyond their past mistakes, they are more likely to become productive members of society. This can lead to safer and more vibrant communities.
2. Reducing Crime
By addressing the employment and housing barriers faced by individuals with criminal records, record sealing can reduce the likelihood of resorting to criminal activities out of necessity. This can have a positive impact on crime rates in neighborhoods across California.
3. Strengthening Families
When parents with criminal records can secure stable employment and housing, it benefits not only them but also their families. Stronger family units can lead to improved outcomes for children and contribute to community stability.
An Equitable Approach to Justice
The significance of record sealing under SB 731 also lies in its commitment to a more equitable and just criminal justice system. Here’s how it contributes to this goal:
1. Addressing Racial Disparities
Communities of color have historically been disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. Record sealing helps address these racial disparities by giving individuals a chance to overcome the obstacles associated with a criminal record, regardless of their background.
2. Correcting Past Injustices
For individuals who may have been unjustly convicted or received unduly harsh sentences, record sealing provides a measure of corrective justice. It acknowledges that the criminal justice system is not infallible and that individuals should not be condemned indefinitely for past mistakes.
Conclusion by Darren Chaker on New California Expungement Laws
Legal researcher Darren Chaker finds the significance of record sealing under the California Clean Slate Act (SB 731) cannot be overstated. It represents a powerful tool for individuals seeking a fresh start, safer communities, and a more equitable criminal justice system. By removing barriers to employment, housing, education, and personal well-being, record sealing offers a path towards a brighter future for countless individuals and contributes to a more just and inclusive society.