Law Office of Michael L. Fell
900 Roosevelt Irvine, CA 92620
(949) 585-9055

As of January 1, 2023, the Fresh Start Act (Senate Bill 1106), introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, has been enacted. This law, also known as SB 1106, is designed to simplify the process of expunging criminal records by eliminating remaining restitution and restitution fines as obstacles to expungement. If you are curious whether you may qualify for expungement under this new legislation, don't hesitate to reach out to our legal professionals at Law Office of Michael L. Fell by calling (949) 585-9055.

Understanding Restitution

Restitution is essentially financial compensation ordered as part of a criminal sentence for loss or injury. Generally, two kinds of restitution payments come into play when a crime conviction occurs. Firstly, a restitution fine is imposed, a set amount applicable to all individuals convicted, irrespective of the crime and its outcome.

Furthermore, the court may instruct you to directly compensate the victim of the crime you were convicted of. These restitution payments, when combined, could pose a hefty financial burden that a defendant might not ever manage to repay.

The Expungement Process

Expungement refers to the legal procedure of sealing or eradicating your criminal conviction record. Successful expungement means you are no longer subjected to the adverse effects of your previous conviction.

However, before the implementation of this new law, expungement requests were often turned down by courts if any outstanding restitution remained unpaid, even if the individual was otherwise eligible for expungement. Regrettably, courts frequently overlook your financial capability when deciding on restitution. This implies that your expungement request could be refused, even if you are financially disadvantaged.

SB 1106: The Fresh Start Act

The inability to afford outstanding restitution fines leads to many individuals in California being denied expungement. This situation obstructs economically disadvantaged individuals from clearing their records and securing employment and housing, intensifying the cycle of poverty and criminalization in marginalized communities.

This also means that crime victims receive minimal to no real restitution because defendants cannot afford the payment. The impediment to expungement doesn't actually enhance the chances of someone settling their restitution. In reality, hindering someone from clearing their criminal record lessens the likelihood they'll ever be in a secure enough financial position to fulfill court-ordered restitution.

The Fresh Start Act aims to interrupt this cycle. As per SB 1106, individuals who have completed their sentence and meet other expungement eligibility criteria can clear their criminal records, regardless of outstanding restitution payments.

It's crucial to highlight that SB 1106 doesn't annul anyone's restitution debts. Instead, it permits individuals to clear their records and find work in spite of their unpaid restitution. Based on a Stanford University study, the estimated benefits of expungement surpass the costs by approximately $6,500 per individual. By enabling those with past convictions to move forward in life, despite their inability to pay restitution, SB 1106 symbolizes a crucial stride towards criminal justice reform.

Contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 now for a free legal consultation.