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Expungement laws: Where does California rank?

The United States tops the list when it comes to incarceration rates among developed countries. Today, more than 1 in 100 adults are behind bars in America.

And that list doesn't include the already 70 million or more individuals with criminal records.

Despite the term "correctional facility," it seems many people, who are now productive members of society, are suffering the economic effects of having a criminal record.

Fortunately, states are aware that a person's past indiscretions shouldn't necessarily haunt them for the rest of his or her life.

Many, including California, allow individuals to expunge or seal past criminal records so they are no longer accessible to employers and the public.

And some states, according to data from the Vera Institute of Justice, are expanding the eligibility requirements to include additional offenses.

According to VERA, during the 5 year period from 2009-2014, states all across the nation passed new laws that aimed to mitigate repercussions associated with past criminal offenses.

In 2010, Mississippi expanded the eligibility for expungements regarding certain felony offenders-including those convicted of drug possession-after 5 years crime free.

The state of Wyoming now allows applicants convicted of nonviolent felonies to apply. This law was passed in 2011.

Ohio passed a law in 2012 allowing individuals with prior convictions to apply for expungement.

The state of Pennsylvania recently enacted a law that would authorize individuals convicted of loitering or other 2nd or 3rd degree misdemeanors to seal their criminal records if they have avoided any additional convictions for 10 years.

So how about California?

In 2011, California lawmakers passed a law that allows immediate expungement eligibility for those convicted of misdemeanors who have served time. (Before those who served time for such offenses had to complete their sentence and wait 1 year before becoming eligible.)

And list goes on and on; many other states have enacted bills modifying waiting periods and other stipulations.

With such a trend, it's possible that states are realizing just how much of a drastic impact a criminal record can have on so many individuals, particularly ones who commit indiscretions in early teenage years.

For those who wish to find out more about applying for expungement are encouraged to consult with a criminal defense lawyer experienced in such matters who can offer guidance and options for individual circumstances.

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