Can California’s Clean Slate Law help if you already have a record?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Millions of people go through California’s penal system every year, and many of them find they’re still paying for their crimes long after they did their time. Their criminal records stop them from getting jobs, renting apartments, getting professional licenses and otherwise taking part in society.

Automatic Relief Law helps felons start with a clean slate

In 2019, California became the third state in the US to pass a bill that automatically seals arrest and felony records in certain situations.

Known as the clean slate law or the automatic relief law, it allows former felons to apply for jobs, rent homes, get credit, get professional licenses and otherwise start fresh. When employers, licensing boards or creditors run a background check, they won’t see the sealed records. Only investigators and law enforcement officials can see the sealed arrest and conviction records.

Studies have found that an inability to integrate back into society is a major cause of recidivism. The new law provides a second chance to the more than 8 million Californians who have a criminal record.

Does it apply to every crime?

The clean slate law, however, does not apply to all crimes. It applies to most misdemeanors, summary crimes, arrests that didn’t result in convictions and some nonviolent felonies.

It does not seal the records of people convicted of:

  • Child abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Certain other felonies

How does it work if you already have a record?

The automatic relief law is retroactive to all former felons whose records meet the law’s criteria. It’s called “automatic relief” because it kicks in automatically once you’ve completed your sentence and paid your outstanding fines.

You can still petition the court system to seal your record if you don’t get automatic relief. A criminal defense lawyer can help you get a fresh start.