One of the supposed benefits of our criminal justice system is that, when a convicted individual completes the assigned sentence, he/she will be considered to have paid his/her debt to society and is welcomed back without further punishment. However, the reality for many is quite different. In some cases, such as in professions which require a license, they are prevented from seeking employment. In other cases, many employers do not want to hire individuals who they perceive is a risk. Fortunately, the California Legislature is entertaining the idea of assisting those individuals who have misdemeanor or lower-level felony records, by sealing the criminal records upon successful completion of their sentence or full payment of any fine. Retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney can be crucial to ensuring that this possibility, if enacted by the Legislature, occurs. A discussion of the proposed law, as well as current options, will follow below.
Assembly Bill 1076
If passed, AB 1076 will require the California Department of Justice to periodically review and identify individuals who are eligible to have their arrest records, or their criminal conviction records, withheld from disclosure. Further, AB 1076 bill would require the Department to grant relief to an eligible individual upon identification; that is, without requiring a petition or motion from the individual, which saves time and money. Convicted offenders need help on this issue sooner rather than later, and having an automatic process to seal records without the delays of court petition, would speed and facilitate the reintegration into society and lessen the likelihood of a return to crime.
Under the proposed law, an individual is eligible to have his/her arrest and/or criminal conviction records sealed if:
- The arrest was for misdemeanor, and at least one calendar year has elapsed since the date of the arrest; or
- The arrest was for a predetermined list of low-level felonies, and at least three calendar years have elapsed since the date of the arrest.
It is intended that the law would apply retroactively, meaning that people arrested or convicted of various crimes dating back decades could have their records automatically sealed. The records would still be accessible to law enforcement agencies, but not to members of the general public, including potential landlords and employers.
Current California Law
Existing California law authorizes an arrestee who has successfully completed a diversion program, an individual who successfully completed a specified drug diversion program, an individual who successfully completed a specified deferred entry of judgment program, and an arrestee who was not convicted to petition a court to seal his/her arrest record. In these cases, if the individual successfully completes certain diversion programs, the arrest will be deemed to have never occurred.
Further, existing law allows an individual, in certain circumstances to have the charges against him/her dropped and have all penalties resulting from the offense released, if probation is successfully completed.
In both cases above, existing law requires the individual to petition a court to grant him/her these remedies. The proposed law would require that similar remedies be granted automatically. In any case, conferencing with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help potentially alleviate the post-crime consequences of lost employment, housing, licensing, and the like.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have served time and were released, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC. Even before this proposed law goes into effect, it is wise to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to see what options you may have at your disposal regarding sealing your criminal record. The attorneys at our office can analyze the circumstances of your crime, and if we believe they can seal your records, we will work to do just that. The attorneys here are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact the Los Angeles criminal defense firm today for an initial consultation.