seal a criminal record

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Today’s discussion will explain how to Seal a Criminal Record, focusing on California law. Generally speaking, the process which applies to most criminal cases is actually a dismissal pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4, not a Sealing of a Criminal Case, as you will read, below.

So, how do I know which process is right for me? There are three similar options which may be available, and eligibility depends on jurisdiction, as well as other related questions.

Juvenile Court or Adult Criminal Court?

The starting point is whether your case was resolved in Juvenile Court or Adult Criminal Court. If your case is a Juvenile Adjudication, you may be eligible to Seal your record.

There are a number of eligibility requirements. You will need to be 18 years or older, and your case closed for at least five years. Essentially, you will need to show the court that you are rehabilitated, have completed the court requirements successfully, have no pending cases (or related civil case), and have no adult convictions related to honesty (“moral turpitude”).

Certain charges may not eligible for the Juvenile Sealing process, depending whether the case occurred when you were 14 years or older. Some of these types of cases include specific sex violations and some crimes of violence. You should speak to a Juvenile Sealing Attorney to determine the eligibility of your case.

Sealing juvenile records will generally make the juvenile records unavailable.

Factually Innocent?

If your case was handled in Adult Court, the Sealing process is more limited. Penal Code section 851.8 is the controlling law for this process, and a very limited option; the requirements are so specific, that most arrestees will not qualify, even if their case was not filed in court (or dismissed in court). The evaluation for this option should be handled by a Record Sealing Attorney.

The starting point for a Sealing of this type is requesting the arresting agency, with the concurrence of the corresponding Prosecuting Agency, to determine whether you are “factually innocent.” As you might imagine, this is not a common “finding” in Los Angeles County; a finding of factual innocence may open to door to significant civil liabilities for the law enforcement agency. If the agency denies “factual innocence” or does not respond to your request in a timely manner, you may petition the Los Angeles Superior Court. The burden of proof is on you, the Petitioner, to initially show that “no reasonable cause exists to believe [you] committed the offense.” If this requirement is met, there will be a hearing, essentially a trial, for the judge to determine if you are “factually innocent.” If the petition is granted by a judge, it requires Sealing and Destruction of the Arrest Records from the case.

Penal Code section 1203.4

The most common process related to Sealing a Criminal Record in Los Angeles is found in Penal Code section 1203.4, also referred to as expungement. This process is designed to give a convicted person a second chance. An attorney familiar with this process can determine your eligibility.

The requirements are similar to the Sealing process. Essentially, if you were convicted of criminal charge, successfully completed probation, have no other criminal cases pending you may be eligible for this process. While it is sometimes referred to as “Sealing,” the remedy for expungement is different. In a Sealing, records are destroyed and made otherwise unavailable. If a PC 1203.4 motion is granted, an entry is placed on the case docket, indicating that the convicted person has met the legal requirements, and that the case is dismissed pursuant to that code section. The history of the case will remain in the record; however, under California law, the 1203.4 judgment prohibits discrimination against the person in many contexts, including most employment-based decisions.

Visit our website for a more thorough discussion about eligibility, at: Penal Code section 1203.4.