Assemblymember Phil Ting (left) and District Attorney George Gascon on Thursday announced legislation that would help clear the records of millions of Californians. (Examiner illustration)

Millions of eligible arrests, convictions could be expunged with new automated system

In an effort to restore housing, education and job opportunities, District Attorney George Gascon and Assemblymember Phil Ting announced legislation Thursday to automatically clear eligible arrest and conviction records for millions of Californians.

Assembly Bill 1706 would make California the first state in the nation to automate arrest and conviction relief in the California Department of Justice for those currently eligible under the law.

The legislation would automatically clear the records of Californians who were arrested but never convicted of a crime.

It would also automatically clear eligible convictions for those who received local jail or probation sentences as opposed to state prison sentences, so long as the individual has remained ‘crime free’ since then, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

“With a few keystrokes California can enhance public safety and equity while reducing recidivism and taxpayer spending,” Gascon said in a statement. “AB 1076 will not only modernize our system of justice, it’s a model for the justice system.”

California has 8 million residents with criminal convictions, and millions more with old arrest records that did not result in a conviction, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Californians currently can take it upon themselves to petition to have their records cleared.

But Gascon believes that automating the system will streamline the process for millions of Californians to access opportunities and benefits, which will in turn reduce recidivism rates.

A lack of access to employment and housing are common issues that lead people to reoffend, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

“Everybody deserves a second chance,” Ting said in a statement. “There is a great cost to our economy and society when we shut out job-seeking workers looking for a better future.”

SEE RELATED: SF first in state to clear and reduce marijuana convictions dating back to 1975

The proposed legislation comes after Gascon last month announced that a partnership with Code for America had successfully automated the dismissal and reduction of all eligible marijuana offenses for San Francisco dating back to 1975.

“Millions of Californians are living in a paper prison,” Gascon said. “A huge number of people are entitled to relief that they’ll never realize because they have to jump through hoops to get it.”

Furthermore, Gascon said the automation will save the state money. Currently, processing a petition costs the system $3,757. Under the the automated model, the cost could drop dramatically to 4 cents per record.

This bill does not impact firearms ownership eligibility.

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