SAN FRANCISCO — A Northern California lawmaker and district attorney announced Thursday a proposed law that would automatically clear some 8 million criminal convictions eligible for sealing but that remain public records.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and state Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco said the bill if passed would help millions of offenders take advantage of an often overlooked law allowing convicted drunken drivers, burglars and other low-level offenders to seal their records.
Gascon at a press conference in San Francisco with Ting said fewer than 20% of eligible cases are cleared and that most eligible offenders are unaware they can seal their criminal records and are “living in a paper prison.”
Sex offenders and any offender who served time in prison are ineligible.
The bill introduced in the Assembly by Ting would require the state to automatically clear eligible convictions of offenders who served their sentences, including probation, and who otherwise stayed out trouble. The bill would also wipe away many records of arrests that ended without criminal convictions.
Gascon said sealing eligible criminal records will help one-time, low-level offenders find jobs, housing and education that may be blocked by their convictions. Gascon says the proposed law would remain in law enforcement data bases, but would bar access to background check agencies and the public in general.
“It really impacts the ability for the general public to get this information … landlords, employers, schools,” Gascon said. “It still allows law enforcement to have this information in case they re-offend.”