Permanent Legal Restrictions Placed on Californians Living With a Past Conviction or Record Undermine Public Safety and Family Stability


October 8, 2019

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed a landmark bill that makes California a national leader in establishing broad post-conviction relief after someone has completed the terms of their conviction and rehabilitation. It is one of the most expansive measures in the nation to create an automated expungement process for eligible convictions.

Assembly Bill 1076, authored by Asm. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, requires the state Department of Justice to automatically clear eligible records for people who were arrested but never convicted of a crime or convicted of certain crimes and have fully completed the terms of their sentence. Arrests not resulting in a conviction would be automatically cleared one year after the arrest for misdemeanors, and three years after the arrest for certain felonies.

The bill is also a critical step toward creating the infrastructure necessary for certain convictions to automatically be removed from a person’s record once they’ve completed their sentence.

According to a newly released report by the Alliance for Safety and Justice, automatically expunging an old conviction after a person has completed their sentence is key to ensuring people are able to regain family stability and economic security, which in turn is an integral part of a comprehensive public safety strategy.

States across the country are beginning to recognize that post-conviction barriers are harmful to public safety, rehabilitation and their economies and that automated record relief is a key part of the solution. Pennsylvania and Utah have both recently enacted automated expungement legislation, while similar legislation is being considered in Michigan.

In California alone, eight million people are living with a past conviction or record that can lead them to face thousands of legal restrictions to jobs, housing, and other opportunities that are key to family stability and economic security. There are over 70 million Americans across the country living with an old conviction or record. Nationally, it is estimated that the United States loses over $87 billion in gross domestic product every year because of employment losses among people with a past conviction.

Under current law, people can only have old convictions on their records expunged by petitioning courts through an arduous and often costly process. It can require hiring a lawyer to help identify records and file the necessary paperwork.

Jay Jordan, executive director, Californians for Safety and Justice: “California has taken major strides towards improving rehabilitation, yet millions of residents who have completed their sentence, paid their debt, and remained crime-free for years still have old, stale convictions on their record. This leads to thousands of legal restrictions that block people from employment, housing, education, and other critical opportunities. These restrictions undermine public safety and the economic viability of communities across California.

It makes no sense to say someone is rehabilitated and then deny their ability to earn stability and move forward in their lives. Today, we are one step closer to ensuring that rehabilitation is real, communities are safe, and families are thriving. On behalf of the tens of thousands of members of our #TimeDone campaign in California, we applaud Governor Newsom, Assembly Member Ting and the state legislature for prioritizing this smart safety solution. This new law will provide pathways to success for families across our state.”