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News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón

October 12, 2017
Twitter: @GeorgeGascon
ALEX BASTIAN (415) 553-1931         |        MAX SZABO (415) 553-9089


Consumer Arrest Record Equity (C.A.R.E) Act (Senate Bill 393) was sponsored by SFDA George Gascón


SACRAMENTO – Today, District Attorney George Gascón announced that Governor Edmund G. Brown signed Senate Bill 393, the Consumer Arrest Record Equity (C.A.R.E.) Act, to seal arrest records and remove barriers to employment and housing for those arrested but not convicted of a crime.  The CARE Act, which was signed into law by the Governor yesterday, was authored by State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and was sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.  The law goes into effect January 1st, 2018. 


“Individuals who are arrested but never convicted often face more hurdles to employment and housing than those who are found guilty of a crime,” said District Attorney George Gascón.  “This is unjust and contradictory to the presumption of innocence that is enshrined in the United States Constitution.  The CARE Act ensures that thousands of Californians will no longer wear the scarlet letter that comes with an arrest record.”

“The Equity and Justice laws Governor Brown signed take a greatly needed step toward restoring the value of rehabilitation in our justice system,” said Senator Ricardo Lara.  “Science is clear, young people are different, and as such have the capacity to change and become productive members of society. These Equity and Justice laws will give them that opportunity.”  

“Our clients are routinely denied jobs and licenses based on non-conviction arrests,” said Sarah Crowley, Director of the Clean Slate Practice at the East Bay Community Law Center. “This bill's expanded sealing remedy will help ensure that people are not penalized for criminal justice contacts that have no bearing on their ability or character.”


The CARE Act establishes a uniform legal process for a person to petition the court to seal arrest records that did not result in a conviction. It also updates criminal records at both local and state levels so that credit reporting agencies and the California Department of Justice do not disseminate sealed arrest information.


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 records 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, SB 393 will remove barriers that are holding back Californians from employment and housing opportunities. 


Senate Bill 393 is part of the #EquityAndJustice package of bills jointly authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) to promote prevention, rehabilitation and maintain family cohesion.  Special thanks go to Senator Ricardo Lara and Daisy Luna, Legislative Consultant to Senator Lara.  Additional thanks go to Katherine Miller, Chief of Alternative Programs & Initiatives for DA George Gascón, and Assistant District Attorney Amy Shearer. 


Click here to read S.B. 393: