California’s Clean Slate law is now more than a year old. The law, also known as Senate Bill (SB) 731, is a powerful bill that granted over a million California residents the right to seal their criminal records. However, many people have yet to make use of the bill.
Having a felony on your criminal record can pose a substantial barrier to better housing and employment. If you’re eligible to have your record sealed or expunged, it’s one of the best things you can do to increase your opportunities. Here’s how the Clean Slate law works, how to tell if you’re eligible, and how the sealing and expungement processes work.
California’s Clean Slate Law Affects Over a Million Residents
SB 731 was first signed on September 29th, 2022. However, it didn’t go into effect until July 1st, 2023. The law provides people with criminal records several opportunities to prevent their convictions from showing up on background checks:
- Anyone whose criminal charges are dismissed will have the dismissal sealed immediately
- People arrested for a felony but not charged will have the arrest record sealed automatically if no charges are brought within three years.
- People charged with non-serious felony convictions will have the record sealed automatically upon the completion of probation or four years after their sentence ends if probation isn’t ordered.
- People convicted of felonies after pleading guilty or no contest may be able to have the case dismissed after meeting certain criteria.
- Almost all people convicted of felonies may be eligible to petition for expungement.
The three tools used by the bill are dismissing charges, sealing records, and expunging records. When a charge is dismissed before a conviction, it indicates the court determined there were insufficient legal grounds to pursue the case. Dismissal is not the same as an acquittal – it means that the court case was never finished. However, dismissed charges on your record may not be used to discriminate against you in California because they did not lead to a conviction.
Sealing and expungement are a little different. Sealing does not change the recorded verdict of the original case. Instead, it alters how the information is accessible to law enforcement and the public. When a person’s criminal record is sealed, the record still exists. However, the public cannot access it without a court order. Only California courts and state and federal criminal justice agencies will be able to access the sealed records, and only for limited purposes.
Expungement goes a step further. The case is treated as though you were never convicted in the first place. When records are expunged, the convicted person can withdraw a guilty or no contest plea. If they originally pled not guilty, the court will set aside the initial guilty verdict for their conviction. Either way, the court then dismisses the charges retroactively. All ongoing penalties related to the conviction are canceled. Most importantly, your criminal record is permanently altered to list the original charges as dismissed, the conviction is entirely removed, and the charges sealed.
Under new Clean Slate laws, records are typically sealed automatically if eligible. However, people newly eligible for expungement must petition the court to have their records changed.
Who Is Eligible for an Expungement?
SB 731 permits a significantly broader group of people to request expungements. However, not every convicted person is eligible. To be granted an expungement, you must meet the following criteria:
- You were not convicted of a “serious” or “violent” felony that would require state prison time after Proposition 47.
- If you were or would have been sentenced to county jail under Proposition 47, it has been at least two years since the end of your sentence.
- If you were placed on probation, you have since successfully completed it.
- You are not currently charged with a crime, on probation, or serving a sentence.
In addition, people convicted of sexual offenses against children are never eligible for expungement.
If you meet all these criteria, you can petition to have your record expunged and your charges automatically sealed.
How to Request a Clean Slate Expungement
Requesting an expungement can be a complex process. If you want your convictions removed from your criminal record, it’s in your best interest to consult a skilled California expungement attorney. If your attorney agrees that you are currently eligible, they will guide you through the following process:
- Determining which law permits you to file because this dictates what steps you need to take.
- Fill out the appropriate forms. The specific form will vary depending on your conviction.
- Submit the forms and associated fees to the county court where you were convicted.
- Schedule and attend an expungement hearing.
At your hearing, your attorney will make a case for expunging your records on your behalf. If the judge approves your request, your conviction will be erased, the charges dismissed, and your record cleared and sealed.
Talk to the Experts About Criminal Record Expungement
Clean Slate laws make it possible to have your criminal record sealed or cleared, but it’s still not an easy process. Filing for an expungement is not free, and a small mistake can prevent you from having your record cleared. It’s best to work with an experienced attorney right away to avoid wasting time and money and have your petition filed correctly the first time.
At the Law Offices of M. Gabriela Guraiib, our team is prepared to help you reclaim your future. We have years of experience assisting California residents with criminal convictions to have their records expunged. Schedule your consultation today to learn whether you’re eligible and how to start clearing your record for good.