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California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a new law that will allow Californians with previous arrest records and convictions the ability to seal their criminal records in an effort to “give them a fresh start.”

State Senator María Elena Durazo originally introduced the bill SB 731 at the beginning of 2021. According to the legislative text, the new law will automatically seal the majority of convictions and arrest records on the condition that a former offender has “fully completed their sentence and successfully gone four years without further contact with the justice system.” The new law will still share criminal convictions and arrest records with law enforcement agencies and not seal arrest and conviction records for anyone with sex offenses or other “serious felonies.”

Jay Jordan, chief operating officer of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, reacted to the news saying “California now has the most comprehensive record sealing system in the nation. Millions of Californians will now be able to contribute to this state and its economy, freed from the thousands of counterproductive yet permanent restrictions to opportunity that serve only to destabilize families and undermine our collective safety.”

Opponents of the new law argued that keeping criminal records sealed puts public safety at considerable risk and argued that a four-year time period was not enough time to have the records sealed. In addition, many opponents said the new law would make it difficult for employers to screen applicants for jobs, raising the risk for employers.

California now joins other states with similar “clean slate” laws including Colorado, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Michigan. The law will take effect on July 1, 2023.


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