California Considering Legislation that Would Limit Access to Criminal Records

Background Screening News

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The California Legislature is in the process of considering legislation – California Senate Bill 731 (SB 731) – that, if enacted, would limit access to criminal records in California to only the last four years and prevent employers in California from checking the criminal histories of prospective employees beyond a four-year timeframe.

In addition to the four-year limit on convictions, SB 731 would prevent banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, broker-dealers, insurance companies, and Tribal Gaming Commissions (TGCs) from meeting their federally mandated background check requirements which, in most cases, include a look back of at least ten years.

Specifically, SB 731 “would implement a comprehensive system to prospectively and retroactively seal conviction and arrest records through a structured approach to sunsetting conviction histories,” according to a press release from Senator María Elena Durazo (Democrat-Los Angeles-District 24), who helped to introduce the bill.

This system would include “(1) the automated sealing of all arrest records to that do not result in conviction and (2) phased relief for convictions records by expanding record sealing to all sentences following completion of terms of incarceration, post-release supervision, and an additional period of time,” the press release explained.

Current California law limits most criminal history use and reporting to seven years, including unadjudicated arrests. Current California law also waives criminal records use restrictions when a consumer report is to be used by employers where a governmental regulatory agency explicitly requires them to perform a background check.

Many California employers, associations, background screening firms, and other groups are appealing to their Senate and Assembly members as well as Governor Gavin Newsom’s office to retain the existing seven-year look back and waiver exception since SB 731 is likely to pass in the Senate and Assembly and be signed by Newsom.

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