People who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime can now get their arrest records sealed to help remove barriers to employment and housing under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week.
The Consumer Arrest Record Equity, or CARE, Act, was sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and authored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.
It sets up a legal process for people to petition the court to have their arrest records sealed in cases that did not result in a conviction, and updates criminal records at both state and local levels to make sure sealed information is not disseminated.
While state law prohibits employers from asking an applicant about prior arrests that did not lead to convictions, many will not consider applicants with an arrest record. Current state law allows convictions to be expunged but is inconsistent about arrest records, Gascon said.
“Individuals who are arrested but never convicted often face more hurdles to employment and housing than those who are found guilty of a crime,” Gascon said in a statement, describing an arrest record as a “scarlet letter.”
“This is unjust and contradictory to the presumption of innocence that is enshrined in the United States Constitution.”
A 2012 study found that 69 percent of organizations use criminal background checks on all candidates and less than 60 percent of those allow candidates to explain negative results.
Studies have found that around 40 percent of men and 20 percent of women are arrested before the age of 23 but nearly half are never convicted. The problem disproportionately affects African-Americans, who while only 14 percent of the population make up 28 percent of all arrests.