Criminal Record Expungement Clinics Benefit 1 Million+ in CA

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
In San Francisco alone, advocates estimate that 25,000 people are eligible to have old convictions sealed. Photo Credit: Andrey Popov / Adobestock

One year ago, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 731, a law that allows more than a million Californians to clear many old felony convictions from their records. Now, expungement clinics across the state are helping speed that process along. A clinic in San Francisco will help people start the paperwork to petition a judge.

Will Matthews, is spokesperson for the nonprofit Californians for Safety and Justice, which is co-sponsoring the event.

“If you’re a registered sex-offense offender, you’re ineligible,” he said. “But almost every other condition is eligible now to be sealed, as long as you have gone two years without any further contact with the justice system after fully completing your sentence.”

Old convictions have thousands of consequences and can prevent people from renting an apartment, getting a job, applying for certain professional licenses, attending a child’s field trip, and much more. Many legal aid groups offer help with record sealing, including the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Area Regional Re-entry Partnership, and Inland Counties Legal Services.

Saun Hough, partnerships manager with Californians for Safety and Justice, said helping people move on with their lives is a matter of public safety.

“So any time you have a population that is being locked out from the opportunity for economic empowerment, or from housing, or from pursuing the career of their choice, then what you’re going to see is this destabilization of communities,” Hough said.

The so-called Clean Slate law also allows the California Department of Justice to automatically seal certain arrests and misdemeanor and non-violent felonies.