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I have been part of a coalition that has been working with a staff member for a California State Senator on legislation that will greatly improve California’s post-conviction laws. While the bill is not everything I hoped for, it is a giant step forward and it will create a foundation on which we can build. The bill number and text of the bill should be announced early next week.

California’s current expungement law (Penal Code 1203.4) is outdated and fails to achieve the many benefits that other states, such as Utah, Nevada, Oregon and many others, do with their laws; namely, reduced recidivism, lower unemployment, faster plea bargains, and a result that is more just than the medieval concept of branding all offenders for life.

The proposed bill does a lot of things, but the most significant is creating a record sealing statute for misdemeanor convictions and any deferred sentences.  Once eligible offenses are sealed, the courts and government agencies must seal their records and the Department of Justice rap-sheet, often referred to as a Live Scan report, will not show any information about the court case or corresponding arrest. As the bill stands now, eligible offenses are any misdemeanor conviction that is not registrable sex offense or did not intend to cause great bodily harm. Also eligible are offenses that led to successful completion of diversion programs.   There is seven year waiting period, starting from the end of the sentence, and a judge will have to find that sealing the record is in the “interest of justice.”

The sealed arrest and conviction data will still be maintained by the Department of Justice, who can make it available to law enforcement for use in any future law enforcement action, including enhancing a sentence.

The bill may also be changed, for better or for worse, along the way— and, of course, there is no guarantee that the bill gets enacted. If it does, it will be a big win for California.

Expect much more on this soon… hopefully in the news column of this site.

Written by Mathew Higbee, Esq

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7 Responses Leave a comment

  1. Jason says:

    What are the chance the bill passes? How long will it be before it goes into law thereafter?

    • Mathew Higbee, Esq says:

      The bill that this article refers to is Senate Bill 530, sponsored by Senator Roderick Wright. Unfortunately, the bill was stripped of most of the important expansion of expungement eligibility and benefits. However, the bill does do some good things, allows a court to waive the waiting period for certificates of rehabilitation and provides greater for those who have had their record expunged in CA when they apply for a job. This bill has passed the Senate and will likely pass in the Assembly. I do not see any reason why Governor Brown will sign it into law.

      The other good news is that I expect another expungement related bill to be introduced in the fall.

  2. serena says:

    This is a bill that is eagerly awaited by many. California has too many reformed, responsible individuals who have been labelled offender even with misdemeanors – and thus are often barred or looked over for jobs and even volunteer positions in healthcare, teaching, and public service and protection. Yes, it should be very selective in whose records can be sealed, but a seven year period is also adequete to show good behavior and worth to society. At the very least, it would bring Californias expungement laws closer to the basic expungements laws that most other states already have!

    • Mathew Higbee, Esq says:

      Thank you for you comment. I agree. See my post on this thread for an update on the article about California expungement law changes.

  3. Rob says:

    I was arrested after protecting myself from my wife, and she brusis easily of which the police arrested me , this is on my record and even though its just an arrest I have a hard time getting a good job , pleae help

  4. RobM says:

    You mentioned another bill could well be introduced in the fall, inferring it could accomplish what was stripped out. What is the latest status of the new bill? For that matter, what is the status of the bill that was partially gutted?

    • Jenna Thorne says:

      Hi Rob, Senate Bill 530 passed the legislature and was presented to Governor Jerry Brown on September 11, 2013. The Governor has 30 days to either sign or veto the bill. If he fails to act on it, the bill will become law without his signature at the end of the 30 days. We do not currently have an update on the new bill we expect to be introduced this fall, but as soon as we know anything we will provide that information here.

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