County residents can clear criminal records with help from DA
Free legal ‘Clean Slate Clinic’ will be held March 24
– The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office has partnered with community groups to help eligible individuals with criminal records clear their records. The effort aims to reduce barriers to employment and housing.
The collaboration includes the San Luis Obispo County Probation Department, San Luis Obispo Defenders, Restorative Partners, People’s Justice Project, California Rural Legal Assistance, and San Luis Obispo College of Law.
A free legal Clean Slate Clinic will be held on Friday, March 24, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the SLO County Law Library in San Luis Obispo. Eligible individuals can apply for criminal record expungement, felony reduction, and arrest record sealing. The clinic is designed to help individuals eliminate a significant barrier to reentry, as employers, property managers, and universities commonly use background checks to screen applicants.
“Criminal records can make it very difficult for people to get jobs and housing after incarceration,” said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow. “We are proud to work with our community partners to help with the time-consuming and paperwork-intensive process of expunging criminal records and helping folks get on track to leading productive and engaged lives. The added stability that comes from obtaining employment and housing helps reduce rates of recidivism which improves public safety and the overall quality of life in our community.”
“The vital expungement services we will help provide at our March 24, 2023, SLO Clean Slate Clinic will not only facilitate reentry for individuals with a criminal arrest or conviction but also improve access to equal justice for all,” said Steve Rice, the primary public defender for San Luis Obispo County. “A criminal record can be a barrier to success and stability in life,” he said. “We believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and this clinic will give individuals the opportunity to start fresh.”
“We value our partnership with our justice partners in San Luis Obispo County and are proud to participate in this important community initiative,” said Brian Buckley, managing attorney at San Luis Obispo Defenders. “The support we will provide during the March 24th clinic will be instrumental in furthering our goal of providing justice to our community’s most vulnerable members,” he said.
“A criminal record represents a substantial and enduring obstacle standing in the way of individuals who have served their time,” said Robert Reyes, chief probation officer at San Luis Obispo County Probation Department. “By expunging criminal records, we are helping our community members become full, productive members of society once again and move past their prior offenses,” he said.
“A prison sentence should not be a lifelong punishment,” said Sister Theresa Harpin, executive director for Restorative Partners, Inc. “A criminal history can impact employment, professional licenses, education, getting a loan, purchasing insurance, adopting a child, volunteerism, and more,” she said. “Having a criminal record expungement process helps formerly incarcerated people succeed and promotes safety.”
“Even a misdemeanor conviction or probation violation disqualifies a person from a wide range of benefits and opportunities,” said Joseph Doherty, managing attorney at CRLA’s Central Coast Homeless Prevention Collaborative, president of People’s Justice Project, and professor of law at San Luis Obispo College of Law. “Under federal law, any probation violation for any type of misdemeanor disqualifies an individual from welfare benefits, including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, low-income housing, and Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled. The consequences of a drug misdemeanor conviction are particularly harsh and can include the loss of healthcare coverage, welfare, and student financial aid. Another benefit of this work that we have seen is that our clients who get their expungement petitions granted are not returning to the criminal justice system,” said Doherty.
Criminal record expungement confers numerous benefits for individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors and felonies. When applying for a job, individuals who successfully expunge their criminal record can lawfully answer “No” if asked whether they have been convicted of a crime. Moreover, an employer is not permitted to consider an expunged conviction that is discovered through a background check in making a hiring decision.
Expungement also benefits those seeking state professional licenses. To be sure, even after an expungement in many circumstances, an individual must disclose a conviction in response to a question posed in an application for a state license (e.g., a contractor license or real estate license) or in an application for public office. However, many licensing agencies are more likely to look favorably upon individuals who have successfully completed probation and whose convictions have been expunged. Further, under California law, “a person shall not be denied a license on the basis of any conviction, or on the basis of any acts underlying the conviction” if the conviction has been dismissed.
“Record Clearing services allow individuals to obtain equal access to legal representation and justice and our law students are an essential part of that access,” said Dena Dowsett, assistant dean of admissions and marketing at San Luis Obispo College of Law.
“Through our law school’s Clean Slate Clinics, community members feel heard and seen through the expungement process, a feeling that many have never felt before,” said Maren Christensen, associate dean of clinical education at San Luis Obispo College of Law. “An expungement grants our community members the ability to continue with their lives and positively contribute to our society,” she said.
The California Policy Lab estimates nearly 1 in every 8 Californians with a criminal record is potentially eligible to obtain a full criminal record expungement; 81% of Californians with a criminal record are estimated to be eligible to have at least one prior arrest or conviction expunged.
If you are interested in clearing your criminal record, please make an appointment to receive services at the SLO Clean Slate Clinic on March 24, at (805) 902-CRLA or email@example.com. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are strongly preferred.