California bill sealing criminal records of many offenders awaits governor’s signature

criminal justice

California bill sealing criminal records of many offenders awaits governor’s signature

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A bill sent to Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature would automatically seal the conviction and arrest records of many criminal offenders in the state if they avoid being convicted of another crime for four years after the end of their sentence.

Proponents of the measure say it is the nation’s most sweeping law sealing criminal records, reports the Associated Press. The Los Angeles Times and CBS News also have coverage.

The California Assembly passed the measure in June and the California Senate approved it in August. The bill would come into force in July 2023.

Those convicted of certain low-level offenses already have the right to have their records automatically expunged under a law Newsom signed into law in 2019, according to a press release issued at the time and earlier coverage by the New York Times.

The new bill expands the relief to allow many criminal offenders who have served time in state prisons.

However, the new bill would not automatically seal the records of those convicted of serious or violent crimes. They should call for help. And the bill would not apply to people who are required to register as a sex offender.

People would still be required to disclose their beliefs if asked about them when seeking law enforcement jobs or when applying for public office. And criminal justice agencies would still have access to the records.

The new law also affects the reporting of convictions to school districts. Schools are entitled to information about drug possession convictions that are less than five years old and other retroactive convictions as of early 2020.

California Democratic State Senator Maria Elena Durazo is the author of the new bill. She said in a statement that criminal records create “a permanent underclass” of people who cannot find jobs, adopt children or coach their children’s teams.

The new bill requires the California Department of Justice to review records in statewide criminal justice databases and notify the appropriate criminal courts of cases eligible for automatic sealing. Courts generally cannot release information about these convictions except to criminal justice agencies and the person who obtained the remedy. State databases would also indicate when the records were sealed.

The bill was sponsored by seven reform groups and opposed by groups that include the Peace Officers Research Association of California.