What Is the Impact of California SB-731?
Unlocking a Fresh Start: Relief from Criminal Records
If you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, then you know how daunting moving forward after your conviction can be, especially if you had to serve a prison sentence or were convicted of a felony. Thankfully, in recent years California has enacted laws designed to help individuals with criminal records access better opportunities by allowing them to reduce or expunge offenses from their permanent records. SB-731, which provides conviction records relief, expands this intention and opens even more potential for those struggling to move forward after past encounters with the criminal justice system.
Let’s take a closer look at this important new bill and how its passage benefits people striving to carve out brighter futures for themselves.
Overview of SB-731 & What It Aims to Do
SB 731 is a landmark legislation that offers major criminal justice reform in California. The bill seeks to open opportunities for people convicted of misdemeanors and/or certain felonies, making it easier for them to reintegrate into society. It does this by expanding the eligibility criteria for the automatic sealing of records, allowing individuals with certain felony convictions to have their records sealed without having to petition the courts. This could potentially be life-changing, as those with criminal records often face serious employment and housing discrimination, making it difficult to get back on their feet and move forward in life.
Under SB-731, to qualify for automatic record sealing after being convicted of a felony, the individual must have completed all terms of:
- Mandatory supervision
- Postrelease community supervision
Additionally, four years must have passed without the individual being convicted of any new felony offenses.
Limitations of SB-731
As of July 1, 2023, conviction record relief introduced by SB-731 will become available to people who have been convicted of most felonies (on or after January 1, 2005). However, there are some limitations and important conditions to be aware of. If the conviction involves a violent or serious felony (such as murder, manslaughter, or assault with a deadly weapon) or requires registration as a sex offender, relief under this bill will not be available. Moreover, even if a person is eligible for relief under SB-731, that relief “does not release the [individual] from the terms and conditions of unexpired criminal protective orders.”
SB-731 & Applying for Jobs in Education
Furthermore, if someone is looking to become a credentialed teacher in California and they have a criminal conviction on their record, the relief offered by this bill does not apply in the same way as it would when applying for another non-education-based job. For example, the Department of Justice is still required to provide the Commission on Teacher Credentialing a complete conviction record of all applicants, regardless of whether the applicant has been granted conviction record relief. Similarly, SB-731 “does not affect the authority to receive, or take adverse action based on, criminal history information for purposes of teacher credentialing or employment in public education.”
SB-731 requires the Department of Justice to also provide the same information to the following:
- School districts
- County offices of education
- Charter schools
- Private schools
- State special schools for the blind and deaf
- Any other entity that requires a background check for applicants because of contracts with any of the previously listed entities
That said, the bill does note that even though the Department of Justice is required to provide that information, it does prevent the Department from “disseminating information for a conviction for possession of specified controlled substances if that conviction is more than 5 years old and relief has been granted.”
Why SB-731 Is So Important
According to some estimates, over a quarter of a million Californians are potentially eligible for automatic record sealing as a result of SB-731, and up to a million more may be newly eligible to apply to the courts for record clearance. SB-731 gives people a chance to put past mistakes behind them without having to go through the lengthy process of petitioning the court, something that can be especially difficult if an individual has limited resources or access to legal assistance. Eliminating barriers created by a criminal conviction record, SB-731 would enable more people to find good jobs and housing options, improving their overall quality of life and giving them a better chance at success post-conviction.
If you live in Southern California and believe you may be eligible for either automatic records sealing or would like to petition the courts for relief under this new bill, reach out to our law firm for guidance. Even with the expanded opportunities for conviction record relief that SB-731 offers, it is important to understand the full implications of this bill in context with your unique case.
Send us an email now to schedule a consultation with John Pozza Attorney At Law, PLC.