Posted by George L. FernandezMay 15, 20240 Comments


Suppose you seek to get your arrest record sealed or your conviction dismissed. In that case, it might be possible under California's Clean Slate Act, which allows people to move on with their lives.

Senate Bill 731 made essential changes to the Clean Slate Act, AB 1076, which gives you a second chance and is often called a record-sealing law. SB 731 passed in September 2022 and went into effect on January 1, 2023.

California's Clean Slate Act (AB 1076 or Penal Code 1076 PC) automatically seals some arrest records and dismisses certain criminal convictions. It was signed into law in October 2019 by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Starting on January 1, 2021, anyone who qualifies for relief does not need to do anything to clear their records. Prior to this law, you were required to file a petition in court and proceed through a hearing to seal records or dismiss or expunge their convictions.  You also had to pay court and attorney fees. 

AB 1076 has been replaced by SB 731 and SB 1260. These two new laws have expanded the old clean slate law to cover more people and situations.

The Clean Slate Law now applies to convictions and arrests after January 1, 1973, not just those after January 1, 2021. Further, automatic relief is now available for certain felony crimes even if they result in a state prison sentence.

Prior to SB 1260, you could still have certain felony convictions dismissed, but not if you were sentenced to state prison. This means that if you completed your prison term, you could get the records sealed or expunged if four years have passed and you have not re-offended.

Simply put, under California Senate Bill 731, most state felony convictions are automatically sealed from your criminal record four years after the case ends. All felony records that did not lead to charges get automatically sealed after three years.  Also, you cannot be denied teaching credentials for an expunged drug possessions conviction older than five years.


There are some essential facts you should know about California Senate Bill 731, such as the following:

  • Senate Bill 731 (SB 731) and Assembly Bill 1076 (AB 1076) are the main California Clean Slate laws.
  • SB 731 is an aggressive criminal justice reform policy.
  • If arrested but not convicted, your records will be sealed automatically.
  • It's designed to reduce the long-term consequences of criminal convictions.
  • Most state felony convictions will get automatically sealed from your criminal record four years after the case ends.
  • All felony arrest records that did not lead to charges will be sealed after three years but do not apply to serious, violent or sex offenders
  • Misdemeanors are sealed after one year if there are no new charges.
  • You can withdraw your guilty or no contest plea for most felony convictions and get the case dismissed under certain conditions.
  • Cases that are dismissed will be cleared immediately.
  • Convictions with probation will be cleared when the case closes.
  • You no longer must file a motion to seal or expunge your record.
  • It allows for automatic relief of felony convictions even if incarcerated.
  • Having a record sealed means the arrest is deemed never to have occurred.
  • It will help people find housing prospects and jobs.
  • This new relief does not restore gun rights.

The California Department of Justice will examine the state criminal justice database monthly and clear all records eligible for relief. 


The "Clean Slate" laws automate the record-sealing process for eligible people, a progressive move toward rehabilitation and reintegration into society. 

A criminal conviction typically follows someone long after they have completed their sentence and negatively impacts employment prospects and housing applications. 

With automatically sealing eligible criminal records, convictions will no longer appear on background searches. It's designed to help people who have changed their lives and reduce recidivism rates.

However, the automatic record relief process can be delayed if you pick up new criminal cases. Suppose your criminal record is not eligible for automatic relief. In that case, you might still get relief by filing a petition to seal or expunge.


AB 1076 started the clean slate process by providing for the automatic sealing and effective expungement of all misdemeanors, non-violent felonies, and non-sex offenses that didn't result in incarceration once defendants completed their probation or diversionary programs.

It allows the automatic sealing of arrest records that did not result in a conviction. Many people impacted by this law were already eligible to have their records sealed upon petitioning the government. Simply put, AB 1076 made these expungements automatic but excludes anyone convicted of violent or serious felonies, sex offenders, and domestic violence 


SB 731 builds upon AB 1076 by extending automatic expungement to misdemeanor, non-violent felonies, and non-sex offenses resulting in incarceration if the defendant served their time and did not commit any new crimes. 

It extends automatic sealing to many domestic violence cases and makes many people automatically eligible to have their records sealed.


Anyone charged and convicted of eligible offenses can have their criminal records automatically sealed if specific criteria have been met, such as the following: 


  • Arrests with no charges will be immediate,
  • Arrests with no conviction will be after the case is dismissed,
  • Misdemeanor probation will be after successful completion,
  • Misdemeanors with jail time will be released for one year if no new arrests exist.

Eligible Felonies 

  • Arrests with no charges will be three years after the arrest,  
  • Arrests with no conviction will be immediate upon dismissal,
  • Felony probation will be after successful completion,
  • Felonies with prison time will be four years after release if no new arrests exist. 

There are differences between having a criminal record sealed or expunged, but they have the same effect. 

Suppose a record is expunged. In that case, it is destroyed and removed from all records as if the crime never occurred. On the other hand, with record sealing, the criminal record will still exist in some restricted databases, but they are removed from all public-facing records, such as criminal background checks.

If you are convicted of a crime, having it dismissed means that court records and your state criminal history will be updated to note the case was “dismissed.”


Under the Clean Slate laws, some crimes are not eligible for sealing, such as the following: 

  • Serious or violent felonies,
  • Penal Code 187 PC murder
  • Penal Code 211 PC robbery,
  • Penal Code 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon
  • Crimes requiring registration as a sex offender in California.

If you need help getting your arrest record sealed under Penal Code 851.87 PC, contact our law firm to review the case details and options at The Law Offices of George L. Fernandez