California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that will allow past offenders to seal their criminal records.
SB-731, which was approved by the governor last week, will automatically seal conviction and arrest records for most ex-offenders not convicted of another felony for four years after the completion of their sentences and any parole or probation.
Under the law, arrest records that do not result in convictions would also be sealed.
People convicted of serious and violent felonies, and felonies requiring them to register as sex offenders would be excluded.
The bill would apply to offenses like domestic violence.
According to supporters of the measure, about 8 million Californians have a criminal or arrest record. They say a criminal record can lead to nearly 5,000 legal restrictions in the state, many of which can limit job, housing and educational opportunities.
The supporters estimate that 70 million people in the U.S. face nearly 50,000 legal restrictions over a criminal or arrest record.
Across the country, 37 states and more than 150 cities have enacted laws prohibiting employers from inquiring about a candidate’s criminal history before making a job offer, according to the National Employment Law Project. The new California law takes it a step further by automatically sealing convictions for certain ex-offenders.
Democratic state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, who authored the legislation, said in a statement that criminal records available through background checks create “a permanent underclass.”
She said this includes “mothers that want to pursue new careers through education, fathers who want to coach, homeowners that want to join their HOA board, couples who may want to adopt, or grandchildren that want to care for their elderly grandparent.”
The measure failed to pass the Assembly a year ago, but an amended version of the bill was approved in June. Supporters originally asked, among other things, for records to be sealed after two years instead of four.
The law will go into effect on July 1, 2023.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.