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August 19, 2022

California about to enact broadest criminal record sealing law in the nation

As reported in this AP piece, "California would have what proponents call the nation’s most sweeping law to seal criminal records if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs legislation sent to him Thursday by state legislators."  Here are the notable details:

The bill would automatically seal conviction and arrest records for most ex-offenders who are not convicted of another felony for four years after completing their sentences and any parole or probation. Records of arrests that don’t bring convictions also would be sealed.The bill would automatically seal conviction and arrest records for most ex-offenders who are not convicted of another felony for four years after completing their sentences and any parole or probation.  Records of arrests that don’t bring convictions also would be sealed. It would take effect in July, and excludes those convicted of serious and violent felonies, and felonies requiring sex offender registration.

Proponents say about 8 million Californians have a criminal or arrest record, or about one of every five state residents. A criminal record can trigger nearly 5,000 legal restrictions in California, many of which can limit job opportunities as well as the ability to get housing and educational opportunities, supporters said.  They estimate that 70 million people nationwide face nearly 50,000 legal restrictions based on a criminal or arrest record....

While the bill would not apply to serious or violent felonies, California has a narrow legal definition of violent crimes, including about two dozen of the most serious crimes like murder, voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, kidnapping, assaults, arson, robbery and extortion.  The bill would apply to offenses like domestic violence, said Republican Sen. Shannon Grove, who joined all Republicans in the Senate and one Democrat — Sen. Melissa Hurtado of Sanger — in voting against the bill Thursday. “These things are very violent things even though they are not listed as serious and violent in the penal code,” Grove said.

Democratic state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, the bill’s author, said in a statement that the lingering criminal records available through background checks create “a permanent underclass.” That can include, among others, “mothers that want to pursue new careers through education, fathers who want to coach, homeowners that want to join their HOA board, couples who may want to adopt, or grandchildren that want to care for their elderly grandparent.”

Seven reform organizations sponsored the bill, including Californians for Safety and Justice, which has pushed for numerous criminal justice like Proposition 47, the voter-approved ballot measure that reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes in 2014.  Groups that opposed the bill include the 75,000-member Peace Officers Research Association of California, which argued California already offers more limited ways for lower level ex-felons to clear their records....

Aside from general criminal records, the bill would aid would-be teachers, who under current law must be denied teaching credentials if they have been convicted of a controlled substance offense.  The bill would bar the teacher credentialing commission from considering drug possession convictions that are more than five years old and have been expunged.  But the commission and school officials would still have access to other convictions dating to 2020.

The bill failed in the Assembly a year ago, with an amended version clearing the chamber in June. Among other things, supporters originally wanted records sealed after two years instead of four.  The Senate approved the amendments Thursday on an 28-10 vote, sending it to Newsom.

August 19, 2022 at 01:24 PM | Permalink

Comments

"...and excludes those convicted of serious and violent felonies, and felonies requiring sex offender registration."

What a cruel, cruel joke. By all means, give hope and assistance to misdemeanants and traffic offenders, while those former offenders who are most in need of stability, redemption and hope for a new life are once again slapped down by the "tough on crime mob" (and you know who you are), who direct the vertebrate-challenged politicians.

Those who think life-long punishments are in the best interest of society are at best short-sighted and ignorant, or at worst sadistic, or all of the above.

If every "tough on crime advocate" mentored just one ex-offender on an ongoing basis, it could make a difference, for both. Consider helping, not hurting.

"...enabling man to go right, disabling him to go wrong" Lao Tzu

Posted by: SG | Aug 19, 2022 3:10:43 PM

a great step for California. I hope the law is amended to include all offenders as those convicted of violent and sex offenses suffer the most. States are laboratories of democracy, and hopefully other states pass legislation that benefits felons residing in their jurisdictions.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 19, 2022 6:48:45 PM

Continuing to cut a certain group of people out is still keeping in tact an underclass. Everyone should be given the same opportunity.

Posted by: Mp | Aug 20, 2022 1:59:50 PM

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