California Begins Expunging Eligible Records Under SB 731

California Begins Expunging Eligible Records Under SB 731
May 26, 2023

California’s new criminal record sealing law has begun benefiting many individuals with eligible records. Previously, only convictions not punishable by incarceration could petition for expungement. However, under Senate Bill 731, more than a million Californians have gained eligibility to seal their records. 

According to SB 731, individuals with specific felony convictions can also qualify for sealed records. In addition, individuals who have served their sentence and remained crime-free for four years may become eligible for expungement relief. However, the new law requires these individuals to file for relief. Otherwise, those who did not serve a prison term but meet the same criteria can expect automatic records expungements.

The state estimates that more than a million Californians with felony convictions could take advantage of this relief now that the law has taken effect. As a result, these individuals could apply for expungement, opening up employment, education, and housing opportunities. In addition, these individuals may also gain other benefits that many take for granted.

For example, SB 731 will “make this conviction record relief available for a defendant convicted, on or after January 1, 2005, of a felony for which they did not complete probation without revocation if the defendant appears to have completed all terms of incarceration, probation, mandatory supervision, post-release community supervision, and parole, and a period of 4 years has elapsed during which the defendant was not convicted of a new felony offense, except as specified.”

However, interested parties must remember that SB 731’s record relief does not count sex offenders as eligible. Furthermore, it does not prevent certain agencies or employers from taking adverse actions based on criminal history found in background checks. Such exceptions include teacher credentialing or employment in public education.

After records receive an expungement, most employers and the public will lose access to them. However, the law will require the Department of Justice to maintain this information. This requirement allows the furnishing of this information to “various state and local government officers, officials, and other prescribed entities, if needed in the course of their duties.” 

California and many other states have begun carrying out expanded expungement laws. As such, it has become more crucial than ever for employers to ensure the accuracy of employment background checks. The best way to do this is to partner with an experienced employment screening provider familiar with the continuously shifting legal landscape regulating consumer reporting.

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