Author: Mariya Melkonyan | Published: September 5, 2023 | Category: California

80% of people with a past conviction experience barriers to job opportunities, housing, education, financial services, adopting or fostering children, and more.

In fact, Californians living with a criminal record face over 5,000 legal restrictions — many of which are employment-related, and 73% are permanent.

California SB 731 is a transformative bill designed to automatically seal the criminal records of eligible individuals and allow others to petition for it.

For those experiencing the consequences of having a criminal record, this is an unprecedented opportunity to access stable housing, employment, and more.

Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about SB 731, including what it is, its benefits, the eligibility criteria, how you can get your records sealed, and more.

However, to fully understand this bill, you need to know what “sealing,” “expunging,” “clearing,” and “relief” mean in a legal context — that’s what we’ll start with.

What’s the Difference Between “Sealing,” “Expunging,” “Clearing,” and “Relief?”

Here’s what “sealing,” “expunging,” “clearing,” and “relief” mean:

  • “Record sealing” is a legal procedure that makes your past criminal record inaccessible to the public.
  • “Record expunging” is a legal process that allows certain criminal convictions to be erased or removed from your record.
  • “Record clearing” is the same as “record expunging.” Both terms can be used interchangeably.
  • “Record relief” refers to legal actions or processes that alleviate the negative impact of past criminal records, including expunging, sealing, and clearing.

It’s important to mention that sealed records can still be accessed with a court order or by law enforcement agencies or other government entities.

Expungement, on the other hand, guarantees that any records of an arrest or criminal charge are erased.

Rehabilitated people don’t deserve to carry the burden of past mistakes forever. Contact defense attorney Mariya Melkonyan to find out if you qualify for record expungement.

How Did Criminal Record Sealing Work in California Before Senate Bill (SB) 731?

Before SB 731 came into effect in California on July 1, 2023:

  • Dismissed misdemeanor or felony cases were sealed immediately.
  • Misdemeanors and most felony cases that resulted in probation were sealed after probation ended.
  • Misdemeanor convictions without probation were sealed after one year of case closure.
  • Only people who had been arrested and released without being convicted or who completed a diversion or deferred entry of judgment program were allowed to petition the court to have their records sealed.

What Does the California SB 731 Do?

Here are the main changes SB 731 made to the California Education Code and Penal Code:

  • Conviction and arrest records will be automatically sealed four years after an eligible individual completes their sentence, parole, or probation — below, we’ll go over the eligibility criteria.
  • People who were convicted of serious or violent felonies can now petition a judge to have it sealed.
  • Arrests not leading to a conviction are automatically sealed after three years, even for felonies punishable by state prison.
  • You can retract guilty or no contest pleas for most felonies and get cases dismissed when certain criteria are met. If dismissed, your record will be automatically sealed.
  • Drug possession convictions older than five years won’t prevent you from getting a teaching license.
  • The Department of Justice will review the criminal database monthly and automatically seal eligible records.
  • SB 731 and AB 1076 form California’s Clean Slate Laws, making it easier to seal records.

If you’ve been convicted of a serious or violent felony and want to have it sealed, Mariya Melkonyan and her team of defense attorneys can help you petition a judge. Speak with Mariya today to find out if you qualify for record sealing.

Will SB 731 Restore Gun Rights?

Generally, your gun rights will not be restored even if your criminal records are sealed

In most cases, only a pardon from the governor of California can restore your gun rights.

4 Benefits of SB 731 Criminal Records Sealing in California

Both individuals and their communities will reap the benefits of SB 731 which include:

  1. Improved Employment Opportunities: Employers often run background checks. Having a clean record increases the likelihood of getting employment, which contributes to economic stability and self-sufficiency.
  2. Easier Access to Housing and Education: Landlords and educational institutions often consider a person’s criminal history. With a sealed record, the negative impact of past convictions is mitigated.
  3. Better Access to Financial Services: Individuals might be denied loans or credit cards based on their criminal record.
  4. Lower Recidivism Rates: By allowing individuals to fairly access employment, housing, education, and financial services, recidivism rates (i.e., repeat offenses) naturally decrease.

All in all, SB 731 gives people a chance to start fresh and rebuild their lives, free from stigma and discrimination.

SB 731 Eligibility Criteria for Criminal Record Sealing

Here are the main eligibility criteria to get your criminal records automatically sealed under SB 731:

  • You were convicted of a non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offense (e.g., drug possession, theft, fraud, etc.).
  • You completed your sentence four years ago, including any probation or parole requirements.
  • You didn’t commit any offense during those four years.

If your case doesn’t fulfill these criteria, you can still apply for criminal record sealing — unless you were required to register as a sex offender.

In these cases, the criteria are a bit more complex. Also, the waiting period before you can apply depends on the severity of the offense; it can range between one and five years.

An experienced defense attorney can help you find out whether you qualify and assist you in filing your record-sealing application.

How to Get Your Criminal Record Sealed

Now that SB 731 is in effect, anyone who qualifies for relief will automatically have their records sealed.

To know if your records have been sealed already, you need to ask the Department of Justice for your background check to see whether your record still shows.

Those who aren’t eligible for automatic record sealing need to follow this process:

  1. File a court application that includes your details, conviction information, and evidence of rehabilitation.
  2. Wait for the court to review your application. They’ll consider factors such as the offense itself, rehabilitation efforts, and objections from the prosecution or victims.
  3. If approved, the court will seal your criminal records, meaning they’ll no longer be accessible to the general public.

However, getting your application for criminal record sealing approved by a court can be quite challenging.

Among several other factors, the legal process itself is complex. You need to gather all the required documentation, fill out forms accurately, and follow certain legal procedures — which can all be difficult for people without legal expertise.

If you want expert legal help for filing your records sealing application in California, contact defense lawyer Mariya Melkonyan.

los angeles expungement attorney Mariya Melkonyan

Don’t Let the Past Ruin the Present: Get Legal Help to Seal or Expunge Your Criminal Records

Living with a criminal record in California means you face over 5,000 legal restrictions, including barriers to employment, housing, financial services, and education.

However, if you don’t qualify for automatic record sealing under SB 731, you’ll have to go through a very complex application process. And if you want your record expunged, the process is even more difficult.

With 13 years of experience as a former Deputy District Attorney, Ms. Melkonyan can expertly help you file your record sealing or expunging application. Schedule your no-obligation case review with Mariya Melkonyan today.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    During your free initial consultation, your attorney will discuss the facts of your case, getting a clear overview of your situation. Your attorney will then explain the process, letting you know what will be expected of you and the support and services they will offer.

    Your attorney will then guide you on how to proceed and begin collecting potential witness details to support your case and evidence for preservation, proper representation, and preparation. Finally, we will explain our fees, take you through our retainer form, and answer any queries you have.

    To give Mariya a clear view of your case, you must provide them with as many details and as much evidence about your case as possible. This may include documentation, videos, audio files, witness names, time logs on any information related to the case for review. The more details and evidence you can provide, the better case your attorney can build right from the start.

    Some clients are concerned about revealing too much to a lawyer in an initial consultation, but your meetings with an attorney are confidential and protected by client/attorney privilege.

    After your initial consultation, we’ll be able to determine a retainer fee and discuss payment options. In most cases, the retainer feee payments are divided into two parts; the first is typically payable upfront.

    There are various options for paying your retainer fee, including cash, check, or card.

    There is no one-size-fits-all cost for an attorney to defend your criminal case. The fee depends on the charges against you and the details of your specific case. As a rule, open misdemeanor cases tend to be charged at a lower fee than open felony cases. Post-conviction legal services, such as expungement of criminal records, are usually even less expensive.

    The final fee depends on the complexity of your case. During your consultation, the attorney will discuss the fees with you. The more details you can give about your case, the more accurate expectations your attorney can set. Contact Mariya today for a no-obligation case review.