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Arrests remain on your criminal record even when they don’t result in a conviction, so sealing your criminal record is highly beneficial to anyone applying for a new job, enrolling in school, or seeking new certifications or other career advancing opportunities.

2012 study found that 69 percent of organizations use criminal background checks on all candidates and less than 60 percent of those allow candidates to explain negative results.

Having an open arrest record on your criminal history can lead to all kinds of potential trouble. For example, current California law prohibits employers from asking an applicant about a prior arrest that did not lead to a conviction. However, many employers simply refuse to consider any applicant who has anything on their rap sheet.

In addition to employment, a great many other potential future opportunities require a clean background check. But prior to 2018, a person who had been arrested but never convicted of a crime in California did not have a good option for sealing their criminal record.

SB 393: The Consumer Arrest Record Equity Act

The good news is that on October 12, 2017, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 393, the Consumer Arrest Record Equity (CARE) Act, which offers help for those arrested but not convicted of a crime. This new law will take effect on January 1, 2018.

The CARE Act added Section 851.91 to the California Penal Code. Using the new procedures outlined in this statute, a person who was arrested but ultimately not convicted of a crime may now petition the court to have his or her California arrest record completely expunged.

Who qualifies for expungement under the CARE Act?

California Penal Code Section 851.91 now provides a mechanism to seal most open arrest records. Expungement is now allowed for any past “arrest” where that arrest “did not end in a conviction.”

The CARE Act defines the phrase, “did not end in a conviction” as meaning one of the following scenarios:

  • An arrest was made, but no charges were ever filed against the person.

  • Charges were filed, but no conviction occurred because the charges were later dismissed.

  • Charges were filed, but the individual was acquitted at a jury or court trial.

  • An individual was convicted of a crime, but that conviction was later reversed or vacated on appeal.

Important Information

Who does not qualify for expungement under the CARE Act?

There are limits to this new expungement law. A person is not eligible to seal their arrest record under California Penal Code Section 851.91 if any of the following circumstances applies:

  • He or she could still be charged with any of the offenses upon which the arrest was based. (In other words, the Statute of Limitations has not run out, or the case could be refiled by the DA for any reason)

  • The person was charged with Murder or any other serious offense where there is no Statute of Limitations, except when the person has been acquitted or found factually innocent of the charges.

  • The person “intentionally evaded” law enforcement efforts to prosecute the arrest. (For example, by absconding from the jurisdiction in which the arrest took place)

  • The person, “intentionally evaded” law enforcement efforts to prosecute the arrest by engaging in identity fraud and was subsequently charged with a crime for that act of identity fraud.

The CARE Act

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