California Assembly OKs sealing arrest records of people not convicted
SACRAMENTO – Arrest records will be sealed and barriers to employment and housing will be removed for those arrested but not convicted of a crime, the California Assembly legislated Thursday, September 14.
The Assembly approved Senate Bill 393, the Consumer Arrest Record Equity (CARE) Act, is part of the #EquityAndJustice package of bills jointly authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) to promote prevention, rehabilitation and maintain family cohesion.
SB 393 needs a concurrence vote in the Senate, where it passed in May with a bipartisan 33-6 vote, before it can go to Governor Jerry Brown for review.
“The presumption of innocence is a hallmark of the United States Constitution, yet people who are arrested and never convicted often face barriers to employment and housing,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who strongly pushed for the bill.
“That’s unfair and unjust, but the CARE Act ensures that thousands of Californians will no longer wear the scarlet letter that comes with an arrest record,” he added.
“Arrests that do not lead to conviction can haunt people and show up years later in background checks that block them from finding a job or an apartment,” said Sen. Lara.
“Jobs are our number one crime-fighting tool, and SB 393 will clear away barriers to employment for many arrested as young people who were found innocent or never tried. When 40% of young men are arrested before age 23, we need to do something to repair the damage an arrest without conviction can do,” Lara added.
Sen. Mitchell echoed Lara’s concerns about how an arrest can haunt someone for years, if not decades. “When we know better we do better,” Mitchell said. “Now that we have the knowledge of knowing what has been happening to our children, we need to step up.”
“Our clients are routinely denied jobs and licenses based on non-conviction arrests,” said Sarah Crowley, Director of the Clean Slate Practice at the East Bay Community Law Center. “This bill’s expanded sealing remedy will help ensure that people are not penalized for criminal justice contacts that have no bearing on their ability or character.”
The CARE Act establishes a uniform legal process for a person to petition the court to seal arrest records that did not result in a conviction. It also updates criminal records at both local and state levels so that credit reporting agencies and the California Department of Justice do not disseminate sealed arrest information.
A recent study found that nearly 40% of men and 20% of women are arrested before age 23, yet many are never convicted.