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California SB 731 - How To Seal Your Criminal Records


In California, approximately 8 million people have criminal records, accounting for nearly 20% of the state’s population. These individuals face significant barriers when it comes to finding employment and housing.

Studies have shown that individuals with a criminal record face up to a 50% reduction in callbacks for job interviews compared to applicants without a record. This leads to increased unemployment rates among this population.

Recidivism rates are significantly higher for individuals with a criminal record compared to those without one. By providing a pathway to seal criminal records, SB 731 aims to break this cycle and create opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Senate Bill 731, also known as the California Criminal Record Sealing Act, was enacted with the goal of helping individuals with a criminal record overcome the barriers they face in various aspects of life. The legislation allows individuals to seal their criminal records for eligible offenses, meaning the records will no longer be publicly accessible.

SB 731 in California is an important new law that can change many lives. This bill allows people who have been involved with the criminal justice system to have their records automatically sealed if they are eligible. For those who don’t meet the eligibility criteria, they can still petition the court to have their record sealed. Overall, this new law has the potential to make a big difference in helping people move forward with their lives.

In this blog, you will find all the necessary information about SB 731, covering its purpose, the advantages it offers, the criteria for eligibility, the process of sealing your records, and additional relevant details. To fully comprehend this bill, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the legal terms “sealing,” “expunging,” “clearing,” and “relief.”

Difference Between “Sealing,” “Expunging,” “Clearing,” and “Relief?”

  • Record Expungement: Expungement is a legal process which permits a defendant to withdraw their plea of “guilty” or “no contest”, to re-enter a plea of “not guilty”, and then to have their case dismissed. A dismissal of an offense offers a “fresh start” for someone who may have a criminal conviction. An expungement releases the defendant from most of the penalties of a conviction. Expungements are rooted in California law. And they are largely beneficial for the purposes of securing employment or maintaining California professional licenses. They do not as useful in matters involving federal law such as immigration issues or otherwise.  
  • Record Sealing: Sealing refers to the process of making a criminal record inaccessible to the general public, usually through court order. Sealing a record means that it is no longer readily accessible to employers or the public, but it still exists in both a legal and physical sense.
  • Record Clearing: Clearing criminal records generally refers to a process that involves removing or expunging certain types of criminal records, such as non-conviction or juvenile records. Clearing a record typically means removing these specific records from a person’s criminal history.
  • Record Relief: Relief, in the context of criminal records, refers to the availability of various legal mechanisms or remedies that can help individuals with a criminal history reduce or mitigate the negative impact of their records on their lives. This can include options such as certificates of relief or various forms of record relief policies that vary from state to state.

What Changes SB 731 Has Made?

SB 731 brings about several important changes regarding the sealing of conviction and arrest records in California. Here are the key highlights of these changes:

  • Once an eligible individual completes their sentence, parole, or probation, their conviction records will be automatically sealed after four years.
  • Individuals who were convicted of serious or violent felonies now have the option to petition a judge to have their records sealed.
  • Arrests that did not result in a conviction, including felonies punishable by state prison, will be automatically sealed after three years.
  • In certain cases, individuals can retract their guilty or no contest pleas for most felonies and have their cases dismissed. If dismissed, their records will be automatically sealed.
  • Older drug possession convictions, more than five years old, will no longer be a barrier to obtaining a teaching license.
  • The Department of Justice will review the criminal database on a monthly basis to identify eligible records and automatically seal them.
  • SB 731, along with AB 1076, collectively forms California’s Clean Slate Laws, which aim to simplify the process of sealing records.

These changes reflect the significant positive impact of SB 731 in promoting a clean slate for eligible individuals and facilitating their reintegration into society.

Please note; SB 731 does not provide for the restoration of firearm rights, even if an individual’s criminal records are sealed. Usually, a pardon from the governor of California grants the restoration of gun rights.

SB 731 Eligibility Criteria for Criminal Record Sealing

To be eligible for automatic sealing of your criminal records under SB 731, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your conviction should be for a non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offense. Examples of such offenses include drug possession, theft, fraud, and similar offenses.
  • You must have completed your sentence, which includes any probation or parole requirements, at least four years ago.
  • During the four-year period following the completion of your sentence, you should not have committed any new offense.

In cases where your situation does not meet these automatic sealing criteria, you can still apply for the sealing of your criminal records, excluding those individuals who are required to register as sex offenders. For sex offenders, the eligibility criteria and waiting period before applying vary based on the severity of the offense and can range from one to five years.

Consult with an experienced defense attorney who can evaluate your circumstances, determine your eligibility, and guide you through the process of filing a record-sealing application.

What Steps Should Be Taken To Have A Criminal Record Sealed?

In California, individuals who qualify for criminal records relief, under SB 731, will have their records automatically sealed without needing to take any additional steps. To check if your records have been sealed, you can request a background check from the Department of Justice.

For those who are not eligible for automatic record sealing, the following process can be followed:

  • Submit a court application that includes personal details, conviction information, and evidence of rehabilitation.
  • The court will review your application, taking into consideration factors such as the nature of the offense, rehabilitation efforts, and any objections from the prosecution or victims.
  • If approved, the court will seal your criminal records, making them inaccessible to the general public.

It’s important to note that the process of having your application for record sealing approved by a court can be challenging. It involves gathering the necessary documentation, accurately completing forms, and following legal procedures. This can be difficult for individuals without legal expertise.


If you require expert legal assistance with filing your record sealing application in California, you can contact criminal defense lawyer Mr. Cyrus Tabibnia from Tabibnia Law Firm at 866-713-2159.

Tabibnia Law Firm is serving its clients throughout Southern California including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Orange County, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, Ventura county, Riverside County, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Monterey Park, La Puente, Van Nuys, Pomona, Manhattan Beach, West Covina, Whittier, Downey, Woodland Hills, Norwalk, Torrance, Redondo Beach, San Bernardino, Walnut Creek, Inglewood, Lancaster, Westlake Village and nearby areas.

Legal References

SB 731| California Senate Bill 731 | Latest News

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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