A law recently signed by California Governor Jerry Brown will provide important benefits for former offenders who have had their criminal record expunged or who are seeking a certificate of rehabilitation. Senate Bill 530, which was signed on October 10, 2013, greatly enhances the benefits of expungement and it also allows a judge the discretion to bypass the waiting period that must be satisfied before a person can file for a certificate of rehabilitation.
California Penal Code section 1203.4 allows most former offenders who have successfully completed probation to request that the guilty plea be set aside and that the finding of guilt be withdrawn- this process is commonly referred to as expungement. After a criminal record is expunged, a person can truthfully answer “no” to any employment related question that asks if the person has ever been convicted or if they have had a record expunged.
Senate Bill 530 makes changes to the Labor Code too. It makes it illegal for employers to request or use information about expunged cases for purposes of making employment related decisions. Employers who violate the law could be liable for civil damages and could face misdemeanor criminal charges.
California Penal Code section 4852.01 allows people who were convicted of any felony or a misdemeanor that requires registration pursuant to Penal Code section 290 to return to court and ask to receive a certificate of rehabilitation. Because expungement is not allowed for offenses that resulted in a prison sentence, the Certificate is a popular option for former prisoners. Unlike expungement, which removes something negative from a person’s record, the certificate puts something positive on a person’s record. The certificate confers many benefits, including creating a recommendation for a pardon from the governor. It also makes it easier for some former offenders to obtain a professional license.
A person seeking a certificate must satisfy a seven-year waiting period before applying for a certificate. The waiting period starts from the date of sentencing or release from custody, whichever is later. The enactment of SB 530 allows a judge to waive the waiting period if the judge finds that waiving the waiting period would be in the interests of justice and that the applicant does not have to register pursuant to Penal Code section 290. The interest of justice standard is regularly used in California courts for many matters, including other forms of post-conviction relief such as expungement pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4.
State Senator Roderick Wright was the sponsor of SB 530.