Eligibility Criteria and Limitations of Record Sealing

Understanding Record Sealing: Eligibility Criteria and Key Limitations

Record sealing is valuable for individuals seeking a fresh start after a criminal conviction. California has implemented Clean Slate laws to help individuals with criminal records reintegrate into society. These laws automate the process of sealing certain criminal records to remove barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities.

Key Legislation

California Assembly Bill 1076 (AB 1076)

Passed in 2019, AB 1076 requires the automatic sealing of arrest and conviction records for eligible individuals. This includes people arrested but not convicted and those who have completed their sentences and remained crime-free for a specified period. Arrest records for individuals who were not charged or whose charges were dismissed are automatically sealed. Also, the conviction records for individuals who have completed their sentence, including probation, and have not committed any new crimes for a certain period (typically one year for misdemeanors and three years for felonies) are sealed.

The California Department of Justice identifies eligible individuals and initiates the automatic record-sealing process. This is done using an automated system that cross-references criminal records with eligibility criteria.

California Senate Bill 731 (SB 7031)

Implemented on July 1, 2023, Senate Bill 731 builds upon the progress made by AB 1076 by extending automatic record sealing to misdemeanor, non-violent felonies, and non-sex offenses that did result in incarceration, provided the defendant served their time and has no new offenses for a specified period. It also extends automatic sealing to many domestic violence offenses. This bill increased the number of Californians eligible to automatically have their records sealed.

Eligibility Criteria for Record Sealing

Under California's current laws, criminal records of those charged and convicted of eligible offenses can be automatically sealed once specific criteria have been met.

Misdemeanor Offenses

In California, specific misdemeanor offenses are eligible for automatic record sealing to help individuals overcome their criminal records' negative impact. Misdemeanor arrests that do not result in charges are sealed immediately following the arrest, ensuring that individuals are not penalized for incidents that did not lead to formal accusations. Similarly, misdemeanor arrests with no resulting conviction are sealed immediately after the case is dismissed, allowing individuals to move forward without the burden of a criminal record promptly. For those convicted of misdemeanors and placed on probation, records are sealed immediately upon completing probation, rewarding compliance and rehabilitation. Lastly, individuals who serve jail time for misdemeanor offenses have their records sealed one year after release, provided they have no further arrests, enabling them to reintegrate into society with a clean slate and pursue opportunities free from the constraints of their past.

Felony Offenses

Certain felony offenses in California are eligible for record sealing under Clean Slate laws, providing significant relief for those affected. Felony arrests that do not result in charges are sealed three years after the arrest, offering individuals a pathway to clear their records if no formal accusations are made. Felony arrests that do not lead to convictions are sealed immediately upon the case's dismissal, allowing individuals to move past the incident swiftly. For those who receive probation for felony convictions, their records are sealed immediately upon completing probation, promoting rehabilitation and compliance. Additionally, individuals who serve prison time for felony offenses can have their records sealed four years after their release, provided they have no further arrests, facilitating their reintegration into society and enabling them to pursue new opportunities without the weight of their past convictions.

Limitations of Record Sealing in California

Criminal records in California are automatically sealed. Once sealed, potential employers, landlords, and others cannot access your criminal records, and you are legally allowed to state that you have not been arrested or convicted of a crime. However, exceptions exist for certain situations, such as background checks for jobs in education, law enforcement, or public office, where criminal records remain visible. Additionally, sealing your record does not automatically restore your right to possess a firearm.

Ineligible Offenses

California law does not allow for the record sealing of those convicted of violent or severe felonies or crimes resulting in sex offender registration.

Access by Law Enforcement and Government Agencies

Sealed records are still accessible to law enforcement and can be used in subsequent criminal investigations or prosecutions. Government agencies may also access sealed records for specific purposes, such as employment background checks for security clearance positions.

Professional Licensing Boards

Licensing boards for professions such as law, medicine, and teaching may still have access to sealed records when evaluating applicants.

Immigration Consequences

Sealed records may still impact immigration status and decisions, as immigration authorities can access sealed criminal records.

Public Disclosure

Information that was publicly disclosed before the sealing order may still be available through other means, such as news reports or online databases.

Future Legal Proceedings:

Sealed records can be unsealed and used in future legal proceedings if deemed relevant by the court.

Questions About Clearing Your Record? Get Answers Now!

Do you have questions about record sealing or other options for clearing your record in California? At Hurwitz Law Group, we provide clear, straightforward answers to all your questions about clearing criminal records. Whether you're unsure about eligibility, need help understanding the process, or want to explore your options, our knowledgeable team is here to help. We offer personalized consultations to assess your situation and recommend the best path forward. Don't let past mistakes hold you back. Take the first step towards a clean record and a brighter future. Contact Hurwitz Law Group today at 323-310-9677 to schedule your free consultation and get the answers you need.

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