Many Californians could see their criminal records expunged starting in 2021 under a bill sent to Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday, Courthouse News Service reports. Under the bill, the California Department of Justice must create a database of all people eligible for record expungement, doing away with what advocates call the costly and burdensome requirement to petition a court to seal and dismiss a conviction. Advocates say the laborious process – and the fees that come with it – discourages many people from bothering. The Department of Justice will have to seek out the records of those who have served their time and automatically begin expungement.
Registered sex offender and those with other pending criminal charges are not eligible. Automatic expungement will available to people arrested after Jan. 1, 2021. Jay Jordan of Californians for Safety and Justice said it was difficult for him to reintegrate back into society while living under the cloud of his conviction for vehicle theft in 2005. The group says that 80 percent of landlords and 60 percent of colleges check applicants’ criminal records. Assembly member Phil Ting, who wrote the bill, said automated record clearance will help reduce recidivism by giving convicts a fresh start. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said the automated system will cost taxpayers 4 cents per record, while each record processed under the old paper system cost $3,757. Opponents say that if the bill is signed, it will cause more work for records personnel. The measure “will unnecessarily put the burden on records management personnel, who are short-staffed and without sufficient resources, to move arrest dispositions to an automated system, a very labor-intensive and cost-prohibitive task,” said the California Law Enforcement Association of Records Supervisors.