Types of Record Clearing in California

In California, there are several different types of record clearing that you might be eligible for, depending on what specifically you want to get cleared off your criminal record and on a variety of other factors. As the record clearing process can be very complex, tedious, and time sensitive, it only makes sense to entrust this kind of legal work to an attorney with deep experience in the practice area.

At Record Expungement Attorney, we understand how many different areas of your life can be impacted by carrying a past conviction on your criminal record. And we understand that many have questions and concerns about whether they're able to clear their record or whether or not they should.

Contact us anytime 24/7 and we can answer any and all questions related to record clearing in California. Call us at 619-432-7544 today and we will give you a free legal consultation on the details of your case!

  1. Expungement of Criminal Convictions

Under PC 1203.4, you can get felony and misdemeanors offenses "expunged" from your criminal record. This is the first type of record clearing we'll mention - and it's the only kind that applies to convictions. The other two mentioned below apply only to arrest records.

As to changes made to your police record, what an expungement does is replaces "convicted of X" with "charge dismissed for X." It does not erase the record entirely but changes it. Many background checks will turn up empty after you get an expungement because they are conviction-only background checks. More detailed checks will turn up "dismissed in accord with PC 1203.4."

Expungement also allows you to legally say that you were never convicted of a particular offense to employers and on job applications. And it makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against you based on the expunged conviction.

Expungement makes it easier to get a state-issued professional license, but you have to reveal even expunged convictions to the licensing board. But, most boards look more favorably on an expunged conviction that its non-expunged counterpart.

There are many other benefits to expungement as well, such as help in getting approved for an apartment lease, a college enrollment application, or a professional organization. However, you do still have to reveal your past conviction on job applications for state lottery positions, public office, or a law enforcement job.

And gun rights, loss of a driver's license, and the duty to register as a sex offender are not affected by expungement. Finally, realize that an expunged offense still counts as a prior in any future criminal convictions and as a strike under out state's Three Strikes Law.

Eligibility Requirements for Expungement

Not all convictions qualify for expungement, and even those that do can't be expunged if the petitioner fails to meet certain conditions. Sometimes, there are actions you can take to make yourself become eligible if you aren't already - other times, there are not. 

Here are the basic eligibility criteria that California expungement candidates must meet:

  • The conviction did not occur in a federal court.
  • You served no time in California state prison for the offense.
  • You are not currently under a new criminal charge nor serving time or probation for a conviction that occurred after the one you want expunged.
  • You have successfully completed all sentencing elements, including fines, restitution, and probation.
  • The conviction was not for a sex crime against a minor or another serious felony for which expungement is forbidden.

To "successfully" complete probation, you must have made your court appearances, abode by the terms of your probation, and not been convicted of a new offense while on probation. BUT, most judges won't require a perfect probation record, just a good one. And you can petition to have your probationary period terminated early as well, so that you can immediately apply for expungement instead of waiting additional months or years.

Also, you can sometimes get approved for probation even if you served time in jail. For example, you may be able to get the charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor if it was as "wobbler" or if it would have likely been charged as a misdemeanor if you had been convicted after Realignment, when many sentencing guidelines in California changed.

The Expungement Process

You can file the papers for expungement yourself, through an attorney, or through a probation officer. But the complexity of these legal matters and the fact that even a small mistake could cause significant delay or even get your petition denied argue for using a skilled attorney.

You have to file for each conviction to be expunged separately, though it can all be done simultaneously too. The paperwork for each offense must be filed with the court where you received that particular conviction. And it must include complete and accurate information, even on matters of detail - plus, there are a number of deadlines along the way that have to be met to avoid jeopardizing the process.

The prosecution may opt to contest your petition for expungement. If so, you will need a good lawyer to counter their arguments. At the hearing's conclusion, if the judge approves your petition for expungement, he/she will overturn a guilty verdict or allow you to rescind a guilty or no contest plea and replace it with a not guilty plea. At that point, the case will be officially dismissed. 

  1. Adult Arrest Record Sealing

Sealing arrest records is a very different kind of record clearing action than expungement. The most obvious difference is that it applies to arrest not to conviction, but there are other differences as well.

In 2017, a new law was passed that made it much easier to get a lot of arrest records sealed because it created a category where it's a matter of right to get arrest records sealed under specific circumstances. This change was made to alleviate those who were never convicted of an offense from being haunted and hindered by a past arrest.

Once an arrest record is sealed, it will remain sealed for three years before being destroyed. However, the arrest record will still exist "somewhere" and can be accessed by police agencies and often by prosecutors in a future criminal case against you. And record sealing doesn't cancel the duty to reveal the arrest if applying for a police, state lotto, or public official position OR if applying for a state-issued professional license.

Eligibility Requirements

If any of the following are true of the arrest in question, you can petition to have it sealed as a "matter of right:"

  • You were arrested but never charged with a crime.
  • You were charged but not convicted.
  • You were convicted but the verdict was overturned by an appellate court.
  • Your charges were dismissed after you completed a drug diversion program as part of a plea deal.

In other situations, you can still pursue arrest record sealing but must argue it as in the "interests of justice" rather than a "matter of right" to the judge. The difference here is a matter of the burden or proof being on the prosecution in the one case and being on the petitioner in the other case.

You cannot petition as a matter of right for an arrest for domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse. And if a "pattern of abuse" exists for any of those three offenses, then you can't get the arrest sealed at all.

Also, if you were arrested but never charged, you have to wait till the statute of limitations runs out to file, but if a charge (like murder) has no statute of limitations then you can't get the arrest sealed unless you were acquitted or get a certificate of factual innocence.

Record Sealing Process

If you are petitioning for arrest record sealing on the basis of right, you can immediately petition; if on the basis of interest of justice, you may have to wait 2 years to file. It usually takes 90 days from filing till your hearing and up to another 30 days from the issuance of the court order to seal your arrest record.

After a record is sealed, it usually takes 3 years for the arrest records of all kinds, including "mug shots" and fingerprints, to be destroyed. But again, there is a non-public record kept somewhere that can be accessed in only a very select few instances. That should not affect most people applying for a job, college enrollment, apartment lease, and most other things, however.

Once you have filed a petition with the court where you were charged or would have been charged with a crime and notified the arresting agency, it's a matter of meeting legal paperwork deadlines up until the court hearing. At the hearing, the judge will hear arguments from both sides and determine whether or not to grant the record sealing. If the DA does not contest the petition, however, you may get your records sealed faster and without a hearing.

If arguing for record sealing on interest of justice, your attorney will need to demonstrate your worthiness and need for the sealing. Showing you have a good job opportunity, were arrested on a flimsy basis to begin with, or have been rehabilitated from your prior actions that led to the arrest, could all help.

The judge may announce at the end of the hearing if your petition is granted or not. But if he/she does not, your lawyer can request that information and get it to you. Once the records are sealed, any unlawful dissemination of your arrest record would subject the relevant agency to a fine as high as $500 to $2,5000 per incident.

  1. Juvenile Arrest Record Sealing

The effects of a juvenile arrest record being sealed are similar to adult record sealing, but not identical. And there are important differences in eligibility requirements and in the process as well. Thus, juvenile arrest record sealing has to be counted as a separate type of record clearing action.

Under Welfare & Institutions Code Section 781, juvenile arrest records can be sealed so as to be removed from the public domain. This kind of relief is allowed because it is thought unfair for an adult to have to be hindered for his/her entire life by arrests that occurred while still a minor.

Once a juvenile record is ordered sealed, you can legally say on employment applications that the sealed arrests "never happened." This can help you get a better job and enjoy similar benefits to adult record sealing. Also, if you are required to register as a sex offender based on a juvenile conviction alone - juvenile record sealing can often cancel that obligation.

Finally, it is possible to get actual "conviction," though they're not technically considered convictions if you were tried as a minor in a juvenile court, sealed along with arrests in juvenile record sealing. That's very different from adult record sealing.

To qualify to have your juvenile records sealed, the following must be true:

  • You are now an adult and/or have been out from under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for at least 5 years.
  • You were not convicted of serious crimes, like certain sex offenses, fraud, or drug crimes called "crimes of moral turptitude."
  • You committed a crime listed in WIC 707b after you turned 14. Some examples are murder, arson, robbery, and carjacking.
  • You have no adult criminal convictions/arrests.
  • For arrest record sealing only - you were arrested but not convicted.
  • The court believes you to be rehabilitated.
  • There is not pending civil suit or criminal charge against you.

It can take 8 to 10 months between filing the paperwork with the Juvenile Court and getting a juvenile record sealed. A special hearing will be held, at which your lawyer must convince the presiding judge you meet the requirements to have your record sealed - and the DA may be present trying to oppose your petition.

Contact Us Today

At Record Expungement Attorney, we take the time to help you understand the various forms of record clearing actions available under California law. And we can accurately and quickly assess which types of record clearing, if any, you qualify for and explain to you the benefits of pursuing them.

We have assisted numerous others in San Diego County and throughout Southern California in getting their records "cleaned up" and putting the past finally behind them. We can do the same for you!

Contact our expungement attorney anytime 24/7/365 by calling 619-432-7544 for a free initial consultation. Or, stop by our office, located at 501 West Broadway, Suite 800, in San Diego, CA, for an in-person consultation.