New Criminal Record Relief Laws in California: What You Need to Know
A criminal record can be a massive hindrance. Many people who have made mistakes in the past find that these mistakes follow them around for the rest of their lives, preventing them from achieving their full potential and never truly providing them with a second chance. While some criminals may struggle to live down the consequences of their past offenses, others could have the opportunity to clear their names and approach their lives with a renewed sense of confidence and dignity. This possibility is even closer within reach, thanks to new laws in California. But what are the details of these new laws, and how can you use these changes to your advantage as you attempt to clear your name and move on with your life?
Senate Bill 731 and Senate Bill 1106: What They Mean for You
In late September of 2022, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 731 and Senate Bill 1106. Both of these bills were designed to allow people to clear their criminal records with greater ease. In fact, the State of California now gives people more freedom to clear their criminal records than any part of the nation. This means that even felons have the potential to clear their names and pursue greater opportunities for jobs, housing, constitutional rights, and much more.
Senate Bill 731 extends automatic and petition-based record relief to felony-level offenses. This is an important development because previously, these rights were only extended to people who had committed misdemeanors. However, this only extends to people convicted on or before January 1, 2005. Additionally, you are only eligible as a felon if you have completed all of your terms of incarceration, probation, mandatory supervision, postrelease community supervision, and parole. Finally, you need to go at least four years without committing another felony before you are eligible.
It’s also worth mentioning that this form of record relief does not reinstate your authorization to own, possess, or control a firearm. If you have lost your Second Amendment rights due to a felony charge in California, Bill 731 will not reverse this. Senate Bill 731 is also not designed to reinstate your right to hold public office if your offense prohibits you from doing so. However, it will affect many other rights that may have been taken away – specifically in regard to housing and jobs.
Some felons are not eligible – specifically, people who are required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act. You will also be ineligible if you have committed a serious, violent felony. These felonies include:
- Attempted murder
- Assault with a deadly weapon
These are just a few examples, and there may be many other felonies that are ineligible. As a general rule, you’re probably eligible to clear your criminal record under Bill 731 if no one was seriously harmed by your crime.
Senate Bill 1106 is a little more straightforward. This bill simply prevents courts from denying petitions for record relief because of unpaid restitution or fines. For example, you might have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution after committing fraud. Even if you can pursue record relief, paying off this debt might make the entire process completely untenable. Fortunately, Bill 1106 does away with these limitations, allowing you to clear your record, pursue a better job, and then start paying off your debts with a higher income.
Why Would I Want to Clear My Record?
If you have a felony on your record, you might wonder what the point of clearing your record is. After all, Bill 731 cannot give you back your right to bear arms or your ability to hold public office. But there are many other reasons to clear your record. One of the most obvious benefits has to do with employment. Criminal records checks can severely limit your ability to get a well-paying and fulfilling job. Bill 731 would allow you to “seal” your records, making it impossible for most potential employers to find out about your past mistakes with the law.
Many people have criticized the justice system in California for creating what they describe as a “permanent underclass.” These people may find it impossible to earn a decent living, ironically making it more likely for them to fall back into a life of crime to make ends meet. Bill 731 could break the cycle, allowing felons to truly put their past behind them and become productive members of society with meaningful employment.
In addition, Bill 731 may make it easier for you to find reliable housing. First of all, private landlords may conduct criminal background checks before accepting tenants. This almost immediately makes it impossible for felons to find housing. Secondly, current regulations restrict certain felons from accessing federally-subsidized housing if they’ve been convicted of certain offenses. Even possession of drugs can prevent people from accessing affordable housing. Again, this can cause people with past criminal records to fall back into a life of crime as they are forced into homelessness or other insecure living conditions.
There are many other reasons to clear your record. Speak to your attorney about how this course of action might benefit your unique situation.
Where Can I Find a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney in California?
If you’ve been searching for a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney in Redlands, look no further than Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP. We know how important it is to clear your name and move forward with your life. Thanks to new legislative changes in California, this might be more of a possibility than you realize. The only way to assess this opportunity with any degree of accuracy is to book a consultation with us as soon as possible. During your consultation, we can discuss your unique situation and determine whether you may be able to pursue criminal record relief. Remember, internet research can only get you so far – so reach out today to get started in earnest.
Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.