San Luis Obispo County’s first Clean Slate Clinic a great success serving over 150 people
Author: District Attorney
4/10/2023 3:47:42 PM
More than 150 San Luis Obispo County Residents Attended SLO Clean Slate Clinic sponsored by San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, 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.
On Friday, March 24, 2023, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, 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 hosted a free legal Clean Slate Clinic for San Luis Obispo County residents for criminal record expungement, felony reduction, and arrest record sealing at the SLO County Law Library located at 1050 Monterey Street # 125, San Luis Obispo, CA 93408.
During the Clinic, San Luis Obispo County-based volunteer defense attorneys and law students analyzed individual criminal records and prepared expungement and felony reduction petitions for more than one-hundred and fifty San Luis Obispo County residents with nearly three-hundred cases. Following the submission of all petitions to San Luis Obispo County deputy district attorneys and probation officers for review, it was determined that more than one-hundred petitions seeking expungement would not be opposed by the prosecution.
The purpose of the Clean Slate Clinic is to help eliminate a barrier to employment and housing for individuals who have criminal records. A criminal record—no matter how old or how minor—can be a significant barrier to reentry for people when most employers, property managers and universities use background checks to screen applicants.
“We are very pleased with the success of our first Clean Slate Clinic. California law allows individuals to have certain convictions dismissed after they have successfully completed probation, served their sentence, and done all that they were required to do,” said Dan Dow, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney. “Our collaborative effort helps streamline the process for those individuals in their quest to return to living productive and engaged lives. The added stability that comes from obtaining employment and housing helps reduce rates of recidivism which improves the overall quality of life in our community.”
“The vital expungement services we helped 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 gave 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 provided during the March 24th clinic was 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 health-care 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.
Record clearance is crucial to ensuring that the collateral consequences that stem from a criminal record are eliminated or significantly reduced for the millions of individuals trying to rebuild their lives toward a successful future. 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.
“Reentry services allow individuals to obtain equal access to legal representation and justice,” said Alex Tron, legal fellow at CRLA. “Often our clients state they had lost hope in ever seeking expungement as they did not believe they were eligible, nor did they believe it was achievable,” they said. “Our clients feel heard and seen through the expungement process, a feeling that many had never felt before. An expungement grants our clients the ability to continue with their lives and positively contribute to their communities.”
“CRLA is both proud of and grateful to our justice partners who helped make the March 24th clinic a success,” said Marin Stuve, CRLA’s Administrative Legal Secretary. “This collaboration is a great example of how our San Luis Obispo community partners working together can provide high quality legal services to low-income San Luis Obispo County residents in need,” she said. “There is more to come!”
“As a volunteer, the experience of working at the clinic was a wonderful opportunity to see the process of justice working for the people who need it the most,” said Stevie Goo, SLO College of Law Student and intern with the People’s Justice Project. “Seeing the smiles on the faces of the people who received help was the best outcome,” she said.
“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.
The SLO Clean Slate Clinic will be recurring every quarter-year, with the next SLO Clean Slate Clinic to be held on Friday, June 23, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the SLO County Law Library located at 1050 Monterey Street # 125, San Luis Obispo, CA 93408.
If you are interested in clearing your criminal record, please make an appointment to receive services at the SLO Clean Slate Clinic on June 23, 2023, at (805) 902-CRLA or [email protected]. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are strongly preferred.