First Criminal Record Expungements After New Law Go to Court

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
An estimated one million Californians are eligible to have old conviction records sealed under Senate Bill 731. Photo Credit: Vitalii Vodolazskyi / Adobestock

The first people to make use of a new state law on sealing criminal records went before a judge last week.

Previously, only people whose conviction did not result in incarceration could petition for expungement.

Jay Jordan, CEO of the nonprofit Alliance for Safety and Justice, which pushed for the law, will ask a judge in Stockton to seal his decades-old robbery conviction, and added Senate Bill 731 will give people who have paid their dues a clean slate.

“If you have a conviction in the state of California, and it did result in a prison term, and you finished probation or parole and have been crime-free for two years, then you can petition the court for an expungement,” Jordan outlined.

If your conviction did not lead to time behind bars, and you meet those same criteria, the State of California will now automatically expunge your record. A felony conviction can be a big obstacle when people try to find a job, rent an apartment, adopt a child or even chaperone a school field trip.

A recent federal budget agreement included $95 million to help states expunge criminal records. Jordan emphasized it is in everyone’s best interest to help formerly incarcerated people rebuild their lives.

“Upwards of 92% of people who have records have already served their time, are over the age of 35, and have been removed from the criminal justice system five to seven years,” Jordan pointed out. “By all accounts, they are not recidivating. These are mothers, fathers. So expungement is public safety, it is economic development, and it’s really about families.”

Under the new law, sex offenders cannot apply for an expungement, and law enforcement, government, schools and agencies dealing with vulnerable populations can still see people’s criminal records.