Sealing Arrest Records In California
If You Weren’t Convicted, You Shouldn’t Be Treated Like a Criminal
When you’re arrested in California, a criminal record is created with the California Department of Justice. That record is then forwarded to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, making the information relating to your arrest publicly available in a background check, even without a conviction.
Criminal records in California are often available to the public without even needing a formal California background check. Generally, anybody with a connection to the Internet can find your California criminal record, regardless of whether it was an arrest or conviction.
Fortunately, California law permits the sealing of most arrests that did not result in conviction, and the process makes the sealed arrest records unavailable to the public or in any sort of background check.
This Information is for You
Since the majority of people reading this aren’t lawyers, we’ve tried to simplify the legal jargon on our website, so regular people may follow along and get the information needed to understand their rights. However, before we get started, we should be clear that some of this information can get complicated, and, in many cases, it’s best to seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
To help you understand your rights, our lawyers have developed a tool that can be helpful in figuring out your options. This tool can’t be perfectly accurate in every situation, but our lawyers have invested substantial time and resources working to make it as accurate as possible.
You can get started by using our Secure Eligibility Test, or you can give us a call at (844) 947-3732 to see if our legal staff is available for a free consultation. Be aware that our staff is often busy with current clients and a high volume of calls and appointments. If you’re serious about getting rid of your record, your best bet is to take our Secure Eligibility Test and then schedule an appointment to discuss your results and options.
Do You Qualify to Seal Your Arrest Record?
California Penal Code 851.87 allows you to seal arrest records that did not result in a conviction or a finding of guilt. You can immediately seal your record if any of the following are true:
- You were acquitted or found not guilty at trial;
- Your conviction was overturned on appeal;
- Your charges were dismissed and the statute of limitations for each potential charge have passed;
- You were never charged and the statute of limitations for each potential charge have passed;
- Charges were filed, but were dismissed and cannot be refiled (an example of a situation here would be a successful PC 995 motion);
- You successfully completed an alternative sentencing program (example would be a “deferred entry of judgement” or a pretrial drug diversion program)
In most situations where there was no finding of guilt, arrest sealing is not discretionary, and you must be granted the sealing if you follow the rules. However, there is one important exception to this applying when you have multiple arrests or convictions for (i) domestic violence, (ii) child abuse, or (iii) elder abuse. This exception will be discussed in more detail below.
Statutes of Limitations
When it comes to sealing arrest records in situations where (i) you were never charged after being arrested; or (ii) the charges were dismissed, but there is nothing preventing the state from refiling charges, you need to consider whether the statute of limitations for the potential charges have expired. Until the statute of limitations for those charges has passed, the court will generally deny your petition to seal your arrest record.
A “Statute of Limitations” is the time allowed for the state to file criminal charges for an offense. The statute of limitations for some cases is as short as one year, while some serious criminal offenses have no limit and can be filed at any time, even decades after the crime occurred (an example would be murder). In California, most criminal offenses have statutes of limitation ranging from one to six years.
These time periods can vary quite a bit, so you need to do a little research to find the right statute of limitation for your criminal offense. Here are some general time periods that should be helpful in answering this question:
- Misdemeanors: most misdemeanors have a one-year statute of limitations (often offenses involving licensing are longer)
- Felonies with sentences of 8 years or more years typically have a statute of limitations of six years. Examples would be manslaughter, 1st degree robbery, arson, and many sex offenses with adult victims.
- Felonies with sentences of a maximum of 8 years typically have a statute of limitations of three years. Examples would be burglary, many types of assault, and other less serious felonies.
- Felonies that have sentences punishable by death or life imprisonment have no statute of limitations. Examples of these types of crimes would be murder and kidnapping.
- Miscellaneous Offenses: Many sex crimes have statute of limitations of 10 years; embezzlement of public funds has no statute of limitations; crimes against the elderly generally have a five-year statute of limitations; and many financial crimes like theft and embezzlement have 4-year statutes of limitations.
Discretionary Arrest Sealing
In most of the circumstances described above, you may seal your arrest record as a matter of right if you qualify. In other words, the court is required to grant the relief, if you follow all the rules and procedures with the courts. However, there is one major exception that makes the sealing of your arrest record discretionary. Meaning, the court may grant or deny your petition for sealing based on whether they feel doing so is in the best interests of justice.
The sealing of arrest records in California becomes discretionary when there is a “pattern” in your criminal record for arrests and/or convictions for the following offenses:
- Domestic Violence;
- Child Abuse; or
- Elder Abuse.
What is a “Pattern” of Arrests or Convictions?
A pattern of arrests for the crimes above will be found when either of the following is true:
- You have two or more convictions in a three-year period; or
- You have five or more arrests in a three-year period.
If either of the above is true, granting or denying your petition to seal your arrest record is up to the discretion of the judge.
How will sealing my arrest record help me get a job?
Arrest record sealing only applies when you weren’t convicted, but it results in the complete destruction of the criminal record. Arrests are not typically as much of a barrier to employment as a conviction, but it’s preferable when prior arrests do not show up during a background check, particularly if the offense is severe. While it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you in most cases for an arrest record, you can’t affect how an employer perceives you in their hiring decision, so sealing an arrest record will only help your employment prospects.
With the amendment of Section 432.7 of the California Labor Code, an employer may not ask a job applicant for information relating to an arrest that did not result in a conviction, may not ask about diversion programs, and may not even search for non-conviction records. This law prohibits information about non-convictions from being considered as a factor in any aspect of the employment process, however, employers may inquire into an arrest for which there is a pending trial. This new law considers pleas, verdicts, or findings of guilt to be convictions. Regarding juvenile records, employers are prohibited from asking applicants about a juvenile case regardless of result and may not use information from those cases as factors in any aspect of the employment process.
Will sealing my arrest records my Second Amendment Rights?
Sealing arrest records in California should have no effect on restoring your Second Amendment rights, as being arrested without conviction should not limit them in the first place.
Not everybody with a California record can restore their constitutional right to own or possess firearms, but California’s laws are favorable when compared to most other states. It should be noted that you can almost never restore firearm rights based on federal convictions, and it can be very difficult if your Second Amendment rights were taken away due to a domestic violence conviction. For more information about federal firearm rights and domestic violence charges, the Department of Justice has resources you can find over domestic violence convictions.
We will go into more detail regarding restoring Second Amendment rights in California on our California Firearm Rights Restoration page, but restoration typically involves both state and federal law that should be handled by an experienced lawyer. The lawyers in our firm regularly handle complex firearm rights restoration issues, so a good first step in exploring whether you can restore your firearm rights would be to take our Secure Eligibility Test. Then, if appropriate, set up a time to speak with our legal staff about how to proceed.
What You Need to Do to Get Rid of Your Record
If you are tired of having a criminal record hold you back, reach out to us by taking our Secure Eligibility Test or giving us a call at (844) 947-3732. Our law firm has helped thousands of people with criminal records move on in life, leaving many of the negative effects of a criminal record behind. Our experienced attorneys and legal staff are here to help you figure out what criminal record clearing services best fit your needs, and then help you accomplish your goals. Using our secure, confidential Eligibility Test is the best way to get the process started.
Some of the potential benefits of expunging your criminal record in California include:
- Removing a finding of guilt and closing the case on your criminal record to help you get a better job
- Becoming eligible for professional licenses you previously did not qualify for
- Restoring your Second Amendment Right to bear arms (with a reduction)
- No longer being treated as a felon
- Increased eligibility for student loans, housing assistance, and government programs
- Improving your ability to obtain higher-paying job opportunities
- Improving access and admission to college and other educational resources
We Are Here to Help
Each of California’s methods for dealing with your criminal record have different requirements and are meant for different circumstances. To move forward, it’s important to determine what California criminal record services are available to you, and then select the services that will provide the greatest benefit. Eastman Meyler, PC is here to help you navigate this very specific area of California criminal law, fight to protect your rights, and assist you in moving forward in life without the effects of a California criminal record.
You can trust that you will get exceptional service from our law firm, as we have an A Rating from the Better Business Bureau, and prestigious attorney rating services such as Thompson Reuters and Avvo list our attorneys as Super Lawyers and Superb Attorneys . Our law firm has attorneys licensed to practice law in all California state courts, provides low price guarantees, and is here to fight for you and put your criminal record behind you!