California’s Clean Slate Law

Signed into law in September 2022, California’s Clean Slate Law (Senate Bill 731) will have key provisions enforced starting July 1, 2024. SB 731 is a legislative measure aimed at providing automatic relief for individuals with certain criminal records. Here are the key components and implications of the law:

Key Provisions of SB 731:

  1. Automatic Sealing of Records:
    • The law mandates the automatic sealing of most nonviolent felony and misdemeanor convictions for individuals who have successfully completed their sentences, including any probation, parole, or mandatory supervision periods, and have not been convicted of a new felony offense for four years.
    • This relief applies to both felony and misdemeanor convictions, with certain exceptions.
  2. Eligibility:
    • Individuals convicted of non-violent, non-serious felonies, and misdemeanors are eligible.
    • Serious and violent felonies, sex offenses, or offenses requiring registration as a sex offender are excluded from sealing.
  3. Application Process for Ineligible Offenses:
    • For offenses that are not automatically eligible, individuals can still petition the court for record sealing.
    • The court will consider various factors, including the nature of the offense and the individual’s conduct since the conviction.
  4. Impact:
    • Once a record is sealed, it is not accessible to employers, landlords, or other entities conducting background checks, thereby reducing barriers to employment and housing.
    • In many cases, individuals with certain criminal records were ineligible for licenses in fields such as healthcare or real estate. Conviction sealing opens new possibilities for career advancement.
    • Individuals with sealed records are not required to disclose those records in most situations.
  5. Law Enforcement Access:
    • Sealed records remain accessible to law enforcement agencies and can be used in subsequent criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Benefits of SB 731:

  • Reducing Recidivism:
    • By removing the stigma associated with a criminal record, the law aims to help rehabilitated individuals reintegrate into society.
    • Access to employment and housing opportunities is expected to improve, reducing the likelihood of reoffending.
  • Promoting Fairness:
    • The law seeks to address the long-term consequences of criminal records, particularly for minor offenses, and promote fairness in the justice system.

Overall, SB 731 represents a significant step toward criminal justice reform in California, offering a path to a clean slate for many individuals with past convictions.

Click to read the full text of SB 731 for reference: California Senate Bill 731

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