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New CA bill could help former criminals seal their pasts




San Francisco district attorney George Gascon speaks during a new conference to announce a civil consumer protection action against rideshare company Uber on December 9, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
San Francisco district attorney George Gascon speaks during a new conference to announce a civil consumer protection action against rideshare company Uber on December 9, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A Northern California lawmaker and district attorney announced Thursday a proposed law that would automatically clear some 8 million criminal convictions eligible for sealing but that remain public records.

Under the current system, offenders convicted of certain misdemeanors and low-level felonies, like property or drug crimes, can petition the court to have their criminal records sealed from public view. The bill is intended to help millions of Californians convicted of misdemeanors or lower-level felonies by automatically sealing those records in the hopes that it will create a clearer path to employment, housing, education and other opportunities that will help create stability in the hopes of preventing re-offense.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón at a press conference in San Francisco with Asm. Ting said fewer than 20 percent of eligible cases are cleared and that most eligible offenders are unaware they can seal their criminal records and are "living in a paper prison."

Sex offenders and any offender who served time in prison are ineligible.

The bill introduced in the Assembly by Ting would require the state to automatically clear eligible convictions of offenders who served their sentences, including probation, and who otherwise stayed out trouble. The bill would also wipe-away many records of arrests that ended without criminal convictions.

Gascón said sealing eligible criminal records will help one-time, low-level offenders find jobs, housing and education that may be blocked by their convictions. Gascón says the proposed law would remain in law enforcement databases, but would bar access to background check agencies and the public in general.

As of the airing of this segment, there is no organized opposition to AB 1076. AirTalk reached out to several groups in the business community, but we were not able to find someone available or willing to go on the record for this interview.

With files from the Associated Press

Guest:

George Gascón, San Francisco district attorney; he tweets @GeorgeGascon