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California to Seal Past Offenders’ Records

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill letting people with previous arrests or convictions have their record electronically sealed so that it doesn’t turn up in criminal background checks, reports Dustin Gardiner for the San Francisco Chronicle. While the decision will provide relief for millions of Californians whose lives have been haunted by a past criminal record, judges will still be able to see a person’s entire record, and the state would be required to provide a person’s criminal history to schools and educational institutions that request it.

Prior offenders qualify if they’ve completed all terms of their court sentence, including any prison or probation time, and are kept clear of the justice system. The law takes effect in July 2023 and won’t apply if the person was convicted of a serious or violent felony, such as murder, kidnap or rape. It also won’t apply to felonies that require someone to register as a sex offender. In addition, prior offenders convicted of a felony can have their records automatically sealed if they complete all terms of their sentence and remain conviction-free for at least four years. Those arrested but not charged with a crime can also have their record sealed.

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