After you have fulfilled your sentence for a crime in California, you have options to expunge, or dismiss, your criminal records. Right now, you are responsible for gathering the information and making the requests to expunge charges from your record. But a new proposed bill could mean that the state takes on that responsibility.
If passed, the bill would require that the state automatically clear records for anyone eligible without a prior request. That could affect the records of an estimated 8 million Californians.
Current expungement process
Currently, Californians with a criminal record eligible for expungement can send a request to have their convictions dismissed. The court must then decide to dismiss or not. If the court decides to dismiss, the records will show the charges as dismissed instead of convicted.
To file a petition, eligible people must find all the details about their convictions, including a copy of the information on their criminal records. It can take several weeks to get this information. The expenses around filing the petition can also be high, sometimes up to $3,700. The cost and difficulty of expungement often prevents people from going through the process.
Why lawmakers think California needs the new law
While California provides expungement for many residents with criminal charges, few go through the process. The bill says that only 20% of eligible people have their records expunged. That means that the rest struggle with finding housing and employment. Many groups and organizations also ban those with a criminal record.
What the law would do
If the bill passes, the California Department of Justice would need to create a database for people eligible for expungement. Then they would automatically clear the records of anyone eligible. Lawmakers hope to use algorithms like the ones used to expunge marijuana convictions in the state.
Your record can affect how you live your life. Having criminal charges can make it difficult for you to find a job or a place to live. The proposed bill could make your life easier by automatically clearing charges after you have served your time.