In July 2021, in an unheralded action in the final days of its legislative session, Arizona enacted a law that authorized its courts for the first time to seal conviction records. See SB1294, enacting Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-911. The same law authorized sealing of uncharged arrests and dismissed and acquitted charges, also for the first time. Prior to this enactment, Arizona was one of a handful of states whose legislature had made no provision for limiting public access to conviction records, and was literally the only state in the country whose courts and records repository had no authority to seal non-conviction records. Now the state will have one of the broadest sealing laws in the country when it becomes effective on January 1, 2023.
(In the November 2020 election, Arizona voters approved a proposition to legalize marijuana, which included a provision for expungement of certain marijuana-related records. But until now no general sealing authority had been enacted by the Arizona legislature.)
As described below, the law makes all but the most serious offenses eligible for sealing after completion of sentence (including payment of court debt) and a graduated waiting period. It also appears that 1) multiple eligible convictions may be sealed, in a single proceeding or sequentially; 2) the prior conviction of a felony (even if ineligible) does not disqualify an eligible offense from relief but simply extends the applicable waiting period; 3) a conviction during the waiting period restarts the waiting period; and 4) there is no limit on the number of occasions on which sealing may be sought.
On October 8, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 1076, the so-called “Clean Slate Act,” authorizing automatic record relief in the form of set-aside or sealing for individuals with certain convictions and arrests under California law. The new law supplements but does not supplant the existing system of petition-based relief, and applies to convictions and arrests occurring after the bill’s effective date of January 1, 2021. Eligibility for automatic relief under the new law is similar to but not precisely coincident with eligibility under existing law. The new law also for the first time prohibits courts and the state repository from disclosing information about conviction records that have been granted relief, except where specifically authorized, whether under the new automatic process or the older petition-based system.
California is now the third state to adopt general “clean slate” record relief, after Pennsylvania (2018) and Utah (2019). While the automatic feature of the new law has prospective effect only, its limits on disclosure will, when effective, apply to all conviction records that have at any time been dismissed or set aside, whether automatically or by petition, as well as to all arrests and other non-conviction records that have been sealed. The specific features of AB 1076 are described in detail in the following comment posted on October 3.
Governor Newsom also on October 8 signed two other bills that affect collateral consequences: SB 310 amends Section 203 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure to make people convicted of a felony eligible to serve of a trial jury unless incarcerated or under supervision, or required to register as a sex offender based upon a felony conviction; and AB 1394 repeals a law requiring that juveniles pay a fee to have their records sealed.