Press release: New report on 2018 fair chance and expungement reforms (updated)

Washington, D.C. — The Collateral Consequences Resource Center (CCRC) has released a new report documenting the extraordinary number of laws passed in 2018 aimed at reducing barriers to successful reintegration for individuals with a criminal record.  In the past twelve months, 32 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted 61 new laws aimed at avoiding or mitigating the collateral consequences of arrest and conviction, consequences that may otherwise last a lifetime.  The CCRC report analyzes the past year’s lawmaking and summarizes all 61 new authorities, which include 57 statutes, 3 executive orders, and one ballot initiative.  The report, titled “Reducing Barriers to Reintegration: Fair chance and expungement reforms in 2018,” is available to download here

Last year saw the most productive legislative year since a wave of “fair chance” reforms began in 2013.  CCRC documented these earlier developments in reports on the 2013-2016 reforms and 2017 reforms.  In the period 2012–2018, every state legislature has in some way addressed the problem of reintegration.  Congress has not enacted any laws dealing with the problems presented by collateral consequences for more than a decade.

The state laws enacted in 2018 aim to break down legal and other barriers to success in the courts, the workplace, the pardon process, and at the ballot box:

  • The courts:  20 states gave more people the ability to seek a fresh start through sealing or expunging their criminal records.  Beneficiaries of these new laws include people with non-conviction and juvenile records; with convictions for marijuana and other decriminalized offenses, certain low-level felonies, and misdemeanors; and human trafficking victims.  Four states created programs to seal or expunge certain records on a systematic basis, without the need for individual application. Two states extended eligibility for diversion programs that can forestall conviction. Four other states enacted laws expanding access to judicial certificates of relief that ameliorate the collateral consequences of conviction, of which Colorado’s “order of collateral relief” was the most consequential. 
  • The workplace:  14 states enacted laws that will make it easier for people with a criminal record to obtain occupational and professional licenses, by narrowing the grounds for denial and by increasing transparency and agency accountability in the licensing process.  In the past two years, a total of 13 states have enacted comprehensive licensing reforms based on model laws proposed by the Institute for Justice and National Employment Law Project. Three more states “banned the box,” prohibiting certain employers from asking about criminal record early in the hiring process, bringing the total that have state-wide bans to 33. 
  • The ballot box:  Three states restored voting rights for some people with felony convictions.  Of note, Florida voters approved a ballot initiative to restore the voting rights of up to 1.5 million people who have felony convictions, upon completion of their sentences.
  • The pardon process:  The District of Columbia set up a board to recommend to the President for favorable action pardon and commutation applications by D.C. Code offenders.  California expedited administrative processing of pardon applications, and made the pardon process more transparent and accountable. Moving in the other direction, Nebraska authorized sealing of pardoned convictions, and Maine made both pardon applications and pardon grants confidential.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • For people with a criminal record:  Review new restoration laws in your state to see if you became eligible to seal or expunge your record, to apply for a judicial certificate of relief, or to vote (make sure to check when new laws go into effect).  Review licensing laws to see if you can gain or regain access to a licensed occupation.
  • For policy-makers:  Consider establishing systematic record-clearing mechanisms that do not depend on individuals paying fees and filing petitions to seal or expunge their records.  Look at giving courts authority to restore rights and status through certificates or set-asides in cases that do not qualify for sealing or expungement.  Consider enacting comprehensive occupational licensing reforms based on model laws proposed by the Institute for Justice and National Employment Law Project.  Promote deferred adjudication and diversion policies to reduce the prevalence of criminal convictions.
  • For administrators and researchers:  Consider ways in which data can be collected to make it possible to study the effectiveness of different types of restoration measures.

For more information, please contact Margaret Love at 202-547-0453,

The Collateral Consequences Resource Center is a non-profit organization established in 2014 to promote public discussion of the collateral consequences of conviction, the legal restrictions and social stigma that burden people with a criminal record long after their court-imposed sentence has been served.  We provide news and commentary about this dynamic area of the law, practice and advocacy resources, and information about how to obtain relief from collateral consequences in different jurisdictions. The Center has drafted reports on new legislative developments, and participated in court cases challenging specific collateral consequences.

Note: This press release and report were updated on Jan. 17, 2019, to include Alabama’s HB 305 and Pennsylvania’s HB 163; on Jan. 31, 2019, to include U.S. Virgin Islands Bill 32-0230; and on March 27, 2019 to include Missouri’s SB 793 and Oregon’s SB 1543 (as well as the provision in Massachusetts’s S.2371 for vacatur for human trafficking victims).