Higbee & Associates Articles New Law Expands California Expungement Benefits

New Law Expands California Expungement Benefits

By Mathew Higbee  Oct. 20, 2013 8:46a

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will have important ramifications for former offenders who have received an expungement or are seeking a certificate of rehabilitation. Senate Bill 530, which was signed on October 10, 2013, expands the benefits of expungement and allows a judge to waive the waiting period that must be met prior to filing for a certificate of rehabilitation.

California Penal Code section 1203.4 allows most former offenders who have successfully completed probation to return to court to request that their guilty plea be set aside and that the finding of guilt be withdrawn— this process is commonly referred to as expungement. Once a conviction is expunged, a former offender has the right to answer "no" to any employment related question that asks if the person has ever been convicted. This right does not apply to applications for state licenses or application for public office.

SB 530 makes changes to the Labor Code that now make it unlawful for employers to seek or use information about expunged cases when making employment related decisions. Employers who violate the law could be liable for civil damages and possibly face misdemeanor criminal charges.

California Penal Code section 4852.01 allows people who were convicted of any felony or a misdemeanor that requires registration pursuant to Penal Code section 290 to return to court and ask to receive a certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate confers many benefits, including creating a recommendation for a pardon from the governor.

A person seeking a certificate must satisfy a seven-year waiting period before applying for a certificate. The waiting period starts from the date of sentencing or release from custody, whichever is later. The enactment of SB 530 allows a judge to waive the waiting period if the judge finds that waiving the waiting period would be in the interests of justice and that the applicant does not have to register pursuant to Penal Code section 290. The interest of justice standard is regularly used in California courts for many matters, including other forms of post-conviction relief such as expungement proceedings.

Senate Bill 530 was sponsored by State Senator Roderick Wright.

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