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Written by Attorney Seth Morris


In a perfect world, the prison system rehabilitates convicted individuals and society embraces them with open arms, offering them opportunities to succeed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and ex-cons face many challenges as they re-enter society.

They get passed over for jobs, have a hard time finding stable housing, and are more likely to re-offend. This creates a never-ending cycle of injustice that takes a toll on families and the economy. However, a new bill has given much-needed hope to the many Californians with prior criminal convictions.

What is SB-731 & How Does it Benefit You?

Authored by Sen. María Elena Durazo and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, SB-731 significantly expands California’s record clearance relief laws—allowing roughly one million Californians to be eligible to petition a judge. The law goes into effect July 1, 2023 and is officially the broadest record clearance law in the country.

Officials expect 225,000 Californians to have an old conviction automatically sealed, putting it behind them for good. Arguably the most significant change coming from this legislation pertains to convicted felons. Prior to the new law, a felony conviction was a dark cloud that permanently remained over your head—limiting you from future success in all areas of life.

Now, SB-731 seals non-violent and non-serious felonies that have surpassed four years from the date of the conviction. The law does not permit registered sex offenders to have their records sealed. SB-731 also provides relief for those arrested but not convicted, as felony arrests can be cleared within six years. Furthermore, the new law allows you to seal misdemeanor convictions after completing probation or after one year.

Criminal Conviction Facts

SB-731 aims to mitigate the effects a looming criminal conviction has on ex-cons and the economy. Data gathered from safeandjust.org sheds some light on this issue and states that:

  • 1 in 5 Californians are still living with an old criminal conviction
  • 8 in 10 people with a criminal conviction have experienced barriers to success
  • Individuals face roughly 5,000 laws restricting their opportunities due to a criminal conviction
  • The average debt incurred because of a criminal conviction is $13,607
  • A base fine of $390 could result in total court-ordered debt of over $6,000
  • In 2014, the U.S. lost the equivalent of 1.7 to 1.9 million workers because of restrictions based on convictions

The Impact of a Criminal Conviction

A criminal conviction could cost you everything. You might find it challenging to find a stable job or adequate housing after your release. If you have children, the judge might think twice before granting you custody. Your ex might even use your criminal conviction against you to get a leg up in a custody battle.

These barriers to success set ex-cons up to fail and heavily influence recidivism rates across the country—46% of ex-cons in California re-offend within three years. This strains the economy since it costs $106,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate, and taxpayers foot the bill. That’s why California has taken such a large step toward change by offering relief to those looking for a brighter future.

Charged with a Crime? Call Morris Law Today

Once you complete all the terms of your sentence, you shouldn’t have to deal with the fallout of your conviction for the rest of your life. If you’re currently facing charges for an offense, you should do everything possible to avoid staining your record. The criminal defense attorneys at Morris Law will relentlessly fight to prove your innocence and safeguard your future. Contact our office today at (510) 225-9955 to schedule a free consultation.