SAN FRANCISCO—California Governor Edmund G. Brown signed Senate Bill 393 on October 11, the Consumer Arrest Record Equity (C.A.R.E.) Act, to seal arrest records and halt barriers to employment and housing for individuals arrested, but never convicted of a crime. The CARE Act, which was signed into law by the governor, was authored by State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and was sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. The law goes into effect January 1, 2018.
“Individuals who are arrested but never convicted often face more hurdles to employment and housing than those who are found guilty of a crime,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “This is unjust and contradictory to the presumption of innocence that is enshrined in the United States Constitution. The CARE Act ensures that thousands of Californians will no longer wear the scarlet letter that comes with an arrest record.”
“The Equity and Justice laws Governor Brown signed take a greatly needed step toward restoring the value of rehabilitation in our justice system,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “Science is clear, young people are different, and as such have the capacity to change and become productive members of society. These Equity and Justice laws will give them that opportunity.”
“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.”
According to a press release from the SFDA’s Office, 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 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.
California law currently prohibits employers from asking an applicant about prior arrests that did not lead to convictions. The state of California has a comprehensive statutory scheme to expunge convictions, but has inconsistent standards for sealing arrest records for individuals not convicted. Some individuals who are arrested are never charged, sometimes their cases are charged but later dismissed, or an individual can even take their case to trial and be acquitted by a jury. There are an increasing number of diversion programs that do not result in a conviction. In each of these examples, the record of arrest is still available publicly despite the fact that the individual was never convicted of a crime, and often acts as a barrier to employment and housing opportunities.
Arrest records that are not sealed can be costly and life-changing. The FBI reports that it has over 77 million individuals on file in their criminal master database, which translates to 1 in 3 adults. Studies have shown that around 40 percent of men and 20 percent of women were likely to be arrested before the age of 23, but 47 percent were never convicted. A snapshot of felony filings in the 75 largest U.S. counties showed that approximately one-third of felony arrests did not lead to conviction. African Americans account for less than 14 percent of the population, but making up 28 percent of all arrests, the impact of unsealed arrest records is disproportionately impacting communities of color.
Such arrests are accessible by government agencies and the private sector as well. Government information is now more public and often compiled into databases by consumer reporting agencies making it easier for employers, landlords and others to base decisions on an arrest rather than a conviction.
According to a 2012 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 69 percent of reported organizations used criminal background checks on all job candidates and only 58 percent allow candidates to explain negative results. Prospective employees and housing applicants are rejected solely based on having an arrest record on file. Studies show citizens with unsealed arrest records have a substantially increased chance of living in poverty, earning lower wages, with fewer educational opportunities.
By eliminating records of arrest for those who are never convicted of a crime, SB 393 will stop barriers that are holding back Californians from employment and housing opportunities.
Senate Bill 393 is part of the #EquityAndJustice package of bills jointly authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) to promote prevention, rehabilitation and maintain family cohesion. Special thanks go to Senator Ricardo Lara and Daisy Luna, Legislative Consultant to Senator Lara. Additional thanks go to Katherine Miller, Chief of Alternative Programs & Initiatives for DA George Gascón, and Assistant District Attorney Amy Shearer.
To read more details about Senate Bill 393 click here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB393.