Understanding California Senate Bill 731 and Its Impact on Conviction Sealing

In Recent Years, Criminal Justice Reform Has Gained Significant Momentum Across the United States, With Various States Reevaluating Their Policies on Criminal Records and Their Impact on Individuals' Rehabilitation and Reintegration Into Society. California, Often at the Forefront of Progressive Legal Changes, Passed Senate Bill 731 (SB 731) to Allow Certain Individuals to Seal Their Convictions, Thereby Giving Them an Opportunity for a Fresh Start.


Recognizing the need for reform in the criminal justice system's approach to past convictions, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 731 into law on September 29, 2022. Prior to the enactment of SB 731, California allowed individuals with certain misdemeanor and felony convictions to apply for expungement, which involved dismissing their conviction after successful completion of probation or sentencing.

However, expungement did not erase the conviction from an individual's record entirely. Instead, a person’s criminal conviction remained visible to certain employers, landlords, and licensing agencies. The limitations imposed by an expunged conviction often led to further barriers for those trying to rebuild their lives post-incarceration. SB 731 aimed to address this issue by introducing a more comprehensive conviction sealing process.

Overview of SB 731

Senate Bill 731 marked a paradigm shift in California's approach to conviction sealing. Unlike expungement, which left a visible record, SB 731 allows eligible individuals to have their convictions sealed, effectively making them invisible to the general public, employers, landlords, and most licensing agencies. This critical difference presents a significant opportunity for individuals with past convictions to gain a fresh start without the burden of a public criminal record haunting them for life.

Eligibility Criteria for Conviction Sealing

Every month, the California Department of Justice is due to review their databases and clear all records that are eligible for relief. However, individuals seeking to have their convictions sealed must meet specific eligibility criteria.

First, applicants must have successfully completed their sentence, including any probation, parole, or mandatory supervision periods, without any revocation. Effective July 1, 2023, most felony convictions will be automatically sealed four years after the person has successfully completed their sentence, unless those convictions were for serious violent felonies, sex offenses, or offenses requiring registration as a sex offender.

Benefits of Conviction Sealing

The passage of SB 731 offers numerous benefits to those with eligible convictions seeking a second chance at life.

Employment Opportunities: With a sealed conviction, individuals can confidently pursue job opportunities without the stigma often associated with a criminal record. Employers will not have access to sealed convictions during background checks, increasing the likelihood of fair consideration for employment.

Housing Access: Sealed convictions can positively impact an individual's ability to secure housing. Many landlords conduct background checks, and a sealed record will not appear during the screening process, improving housing prospects.

Professional Licensing: SB 731 also extends its benefits to professional licensing. In many cases, individuals with certain criminal records were barred from obtaining licenses in fields such as healthcare or real estate. Conviction sealing opens up new possibilities for career advancement.

Reduced Stigma: One of the most significant advantages of conviction sealing is the reduction of societal stigma. By allowing individuals to move forward without the weight of past mistakes, SB 731 promotes a more inclusive and rehabilitative approach to criminal justice.

Senate Bill 731 is a landmark piece of legislation in California's ongoing efforts to reform its criminal justice system. By providing a path to conviction sealing, SB 731 offers individuals a chance to rebuild their lives after completing their sentences successfully.

If you have been charged with an offense that is eligible for sealing, it is critical that you discuss your case immediately with a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has extensive experience filing sealing motions and advocating for his clients to have a brighter future, free from any stigma.

For more information about the criminal justice process, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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