California Arrest Record Equity (C.A.R.E.) Act Passes out of Senate Public Safety Committee

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News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón


March 28, 2017

Twitter: @GeorgeGascon

CONTACT:          Alex Bastian (415) 553-1931

                              Maxwell Szabo (415) 553-9089 


SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the Senate Public Safety Committee passed the California Arrest Record Equity (C.A.R.E.) Act out of committee on a 6 to 1 vote in favor.  San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is the sponsor of Senate Bill 393, a bill by State Senator Ricardo Lara which will seal arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime.

“While many types of convictions can be expunged, those who are arrested but never convicted continue to have a criminal record that presents a barrier to employment and housing opportunities,” said District Attorney George Gascón.  “This is unjust, and California needs to right this wrong to ensure individuals never convicted of a crime don’t live their lives in a paper prison.”

“Arrests that don’t lead to conviction can show up in background checks and block people from finding a job or an apartment,” said Sen. Lara. “Studies show that 40% of men and 20% of women were arrested before age 23, yet nearly half were never convicted. To continue to cast a pall of suspicion over people not convicted of a crime serves no public safety purpose, and it holds people back from jobs, which is the number one crime-fighting tool we have.”

Current California law prohibits employers from asking an applicant about prior arrests that did not lead to convictions, yet many employers simply refuse to consider any applicant who has an arrest record.  Although California has a comprehensive statutory scheme to expunge convictions, it has inconsistent standards for sealing arrest records for individuals not convicted.  Many individuals who are arrested are never charged, sometimes their cases are charged but later dismissed, or an individual can even take their case to trial and be acquitted by a jury.  There are also an increasing number of diversion programs that do not result in a conviction.  In each of these examples the record of arrest is still available publicly despite the fact that the individual was never convicted of a crime, and often acts as a barrier to employment and housing opportunities. 

Arrest records that are not sealed can be costly and life-changing. The FBI reports that it has over 77 million individuals on file in their criminal master database, which translates to 1 in 3 adults. Furthermore, studies have found that around 40% of men and 20% of women were likely to be arrested before the age of 23, yet 47% were never convicted. A snapshot of felony filings in the 75 largest U.S. counties, for example, showed that approximately one-third of felony arrests did not lead to conviction.  And with African Americans accounting for less than 14 percent of the population, but making up 28 percent of all arrests, the impact of unsealed arrest record is disproportionately impacting communities of color.

These arrests are not only accessible by government agencies, but the private sector as well. With the rapid technological advancements of the 21st century, government information is now more public than ever and often compiled into databases by consumer reporting agencies. This makes it easier for employers, landlords and others to base decisions on an arrest rather than a conviction. 

According to a 2012 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 69% of reported organizations used criminal background checks on all job candidates and only 58% allow candidates to explain negative results.  Many prospective employees and housing applicants are rejected solely based on having an arrest record on file. Studies also show citizens with unsealed arrest records have a substantially increased chance of living in poverty, earning lower wages, with fewer educational opportunities.

By removing records of arrest for those who are never convicted of a crime, we can remove barriers that are holding back Californians from employment and housing opportunities. 

Click here to read S.B. 393: