Expungement vs. Petition to Seal an Arrest in California

For most people who are arrested and convicted, the most serious consequence is the arrest record or criminal record that is created. Today, almost a quarter of the U.S. population has some record, about 10 percent having felony convictions.

Meanwhile, technology makes it super easy for anyone to access arrest and criminal records. Anyone with internet access can easily run background checks and get a hold of criminal records online. This is certainly good news for employers, lenders, insurance firms, and law enforcement agencies.

For people looking for a fresh start after an arrest or a conviction, having a criminal record in the public sphere is devastating.   With your criminal record somewhere on the internet, it can be quite difficult for you to obtain employment, funding, and licensing, among many other things.

At Record Expungement Attorney, we assure you that regardless of what you might have done wrong, it’s pretty much possible to clean your name and redeem yourself. In California, the law allows (in certain circumstances) police record holders to have their records removed from public access. This is where expungement and record sealing come in.    

Difference Between Expungement and Petition to Seal an Arrest

When the topic of criminal record clearing is discussed, the terms “expungement” and “record sealing” are often used interchangeably, yet they mean two different things. If you have been arrested and/or convicted in California, it is important for you to understand the difference between the two.

In most states, there’s a fine distinction, which makes it important to have a competent attorney review your criminal record carefully to appropriately advise you as to whether you are eligible for expunging, sealing, or any other available option. Hiring an attorney from Record Expungement Attorney is a step in the right direction, as we enlighten our esteemed clients about these two intricate processes.

What is Expungement?

Expungement is essentially the removal of a conviction from a person’s criminal record, and it results in the dismissal of the underlying charge. Therefore, if you have ever been convicted of a crime – misdemeanor or a felony – then filing a petition to have your record expunged is what you need to do to get the conviction permanently off the national database.

How to File for Expungement

To have your conviction record expunged in California, you’ll have to file a petition on the court that handed down your conviction through California Penal Code section 1203.4. You may make the application in person, or it can be made by your attorney, or by a probation officer endorsed in writing.

Once granted by a California court, expungement leads to the destruction of all records of arrest and subsequent conviction held by the court and other law enforcement agencies. This is to ensure that they will never appear on background checks. Since expungement leads to the complete destruction of your criminal record, it presents you with a priceless and life-changing opportunity.

The good thing about expungement is that it does a lot more than making your record unavailable to employers, landlords, lenders, licensing boards and other interested parties. It can also restore any rights and privileges (such as firearms possession, voting, etc) that may have been revoked.

Eligibility Requirements for Record Expungement 

In California, expungement is an option you can consider if you were convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony as long as:

  • You have successfully completed probation for the particular offense you were charged with,
  • You didn’t serve time in a state prison, or
  • You served time in a state prison, but would have otherwise served time in a county jail had you committed the crime after execution of “realignment” under Proposition 47.

You are not eligible for record expungement if:

  • You are presently charged with a criminal offense,
  • You are currently on probation for a criminal offense,
  • You are currently serving a sentence for a criminal offense
  • You were convicted of sex crimes involving children

At Record Expungement Attorney, we have highly competent and experienced attorneys who study each case thoroughly to ensure that each client gets proper legal representation during the case. Once you hire our attorney to help with your case, s/he will:

  • Analyze your expungement case comprehensively to establish whether you are indeed eligible for this specific type of relief,
  • Carry out extensive legal research on the recent and relevant law,
  • File the appropriate paperwork within the set time-frames,
  • Attend your expungement hearing in the designated court, and
  • Argue your case diligently to ensure that your request to have your record expunged is granted.

There’s no denying that the help of a highly qualified and experienced criminal expungement attorney is needed so as to complete the process with zero obstacles. All attorneys at Record Expungement Attorney have what it takes to get your petition to expunge your record granted, as long as you are eligible.

What is Record Sealing?

Record sealing is labeling a record “sealed” and removing it from the public sphere. Unlike expungement, petition to seal a record doesn’t grant the permission to have one’s records completely destroyed. With record sealing, the record remains intact, but its access is extremely restricted. Just like expungement, record sealing presents you with an opportunity to move past your unfortunate past and start afresh, as far as getting your applications approved is concerned. 

While record sealing prevents employers, landlords, etc. from accessing your record, it still leaves a small gap where your record could still be made available to few entities. Some of the entities that can access your record include law enforcement agencies, state professional licensing boards, and employers working with the elderly or children. Moreover, judges, prosecutors and the police can access your sealed record if you ever become involved in future criminal investigations.

How to File A Petition to Seal an Arrest Record

There are two ways to seal an arrest record in California. The first way is to file a petition under California Penal Code section 851.8. This old law requires that you prove that you were absolutely innocent and that you shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. Once your request is granted, your arrest record will be permanently destroyed and completely erased from all public databases.

The second way you could have your record sealed is to file a petition under California Penal Code section 851.91, which is simpler compared to filing under section 851.8. All you need to do is to demonstrate that you are eligible for relief.

You should note that, just because record sealing is a viable option, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an automatic right. There are many factors that could deny you the opportunity to have your record sealed. The first thing that will determine whether record sealing is an option that you can explore is your eligibility.

Eligibility Requirements for Record Sealing

The following are the scenarios whereby you could be eligible for record sealing:

  • You were arrested within the state of California, but you were never convicted,
  • You were arrested but the prosecutor declined to file charges due to one reason or another,
  • You were entangled in a case of mistaken identity,
  • The prosecutor was prevented from filing a case against you due to the expiration of the Statute of Limitations,
  • You were charged, but got acquitted of all charges,
  • A conviction occurred, but was later reversed after making an appeal.

If you were convicted/adjudicated for a felony or misdemeanor, you may not be eligible for record sealing. You should note that many driving offenses are often considered misdemeanors and at times felonies. Additionally, you cannot have your record expunged if you were adjudged delinquent as a juvenile.

There are other circumstances that could make you ineligible to file a petition to seal an arrest record. They include:

  • You were charged for the offense you were arrested for,
  • You evaded the police by abandonment of jurisdiction, thus avoided an arrest,
  • You evaded the police by getting involved in identity fraud, thus avoided an arrest,
  • You are charged for violating the California Penal Code section 187
  • The Statute of Limitations having not ran

Sealing an arrest record under California Penal Code section 851.8 is both costly and labor intensive. To ensure that this process goes flawlessly from start to finish, you will need the help of a seasoned attorney. At Record Expungement Attorney, we have been expunging convictions and sealing arrest records for a long time. Our highly qualified and experienced attorneys will argue your case in court and ensure that your request to seal your arrest record is granted.

How Long Does it Take to Expunge or Seal an Arrest Record?

Firstly, you can expunge or seal your record any time. However, the charge against you must be closed. Moreover, all periods of supervision must be over, i.e. you must be through with probation.

The expungement and record sealing processes take anywhere from two to three months. However, the duration may be longer or shorter depending on specific court you file the case in. There are several courts that are much faster and have the capability of processing petitions within a few weeks. There are other courts that have an average processing time of about seven weeks from the date of filing the petition to the day the judge grants the expungement request.

There are two reasons why your application to have your record expunged or sealed delayed. The first one is when your application is done incorrectly. This makes it imperative for you to fill out all relevant information accurately. The second reason is when important documents are left out in the application.

All attorneys at Record Expungement Attorney are meticulous when it comes to organizing relevant paperwork. This enables them to avoid unnecessary delays that could arise due to missing documents or inaccurately done applications. With the understanding of how California courts work and their capabilities as far as processing petitions is concerned, our attorneys usually take the best approach to ensure that the process doesn’t take longer than necessary.

How Many Times Can You Apply to Have Your Record Expunged or Sealed?

In California, one can only apply once to have his/her record expunged or sealed. If you have been arrested more than one time, you may be allowed to file a petition only the judge comes to the conclusion that the multiple arrests are all associated with the same incident.

What Alternatives Are There If You Can’t Have Your Record Expunged?

If you are not eligible for an expungement, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are done for. There are various alternatives that can help you get relief for your offenses. They include:

  • You can obtain California governor’s pardon and/or Certificate of Rehabilitation,
  • You could have your California prison sentence commuted.

Can You Get an Expungement if You Violated or Didn’t Satisfy Your Probation?

To successfully have your record expunged, you must have completed your probation. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all hope is lost for you if you didn’t satisfactorily complete your probation. The court can hold a special hearing whereby it can be determined whether you are a good candidate for expungement. There are various factors that the judge might consider, including:

  • Your criminal history,
  • Your overall performance while you were in probation,
  • The weightiness of the underlying conviction, 
  • Availability of evidence proving that you deserve this relief (expungement), such as strong community ties, support of your family, or opportunity to get a good job.

Benefits of Having Your Record Expunged or Sealed

There are many benefits that come with having your record expunged or sealed. The most notable ones include:

  • Employers, credit firms, landlords, etc. will no longer discriminate you based on your arrests and/or convictions,
  • It will become quite easy for you to obtain a professional license, and launch successful career,
  • Your expunged conviction(s) will not be used to impeach your credibility as a witness in court, as long as you are not the defendant being prosecuted in the subsequent case,
  • You will avoid particular immigration repercussions such as deportation.

Remember that, if your record is successfully expunged or sealed, you will not have to tell potential employers or anyone else for that matter about your criminal records. On your subsequent applications, you will be legally allowed to answer “no” if asked whether you have ever been arrested or convicted. In addition, the court, and other law enforcement agencies should also respond with a “no” when asked if such record exists.

Please note that you only have the right to answer “no” to that question only if your entire record has been sealed or expunged. This is a right that you will find to be extremely valuable at a time you are desperately looking to move past a criminal record and work hard towards attaining success.

What an Expungement Won’t Do

Sadly, there are certain restrictions on what an expungement under California Penal Code Section 1203.4 won’t do. They include:

  • If your driver’s license has been revoked or suspended, expungement won’t overturn the revocation or suspension,
  • It will not end the duty to register as a sex offender under penal code 290 PC,

Note that expunged records may still be utilized to enhance sentencing for future sentencing in case you are convicted again. For instance; if you have an expunged DUI, it can be considered a prior if you are later arrested for another DUI.

Expunging or Sealing a Record Near Me

If you or a loved one is looking to have his record expunged or sealed, you can count on Record Expungement Attorney to offer the best legal representation in the case. We take pride in knowing that we have the best criminal expungement attorneys in Sherman Oaks, CA.

For more information or any queries regarding record expungement or record sealing in California, call us at 805-836-0422. Our lines are open 24/7, 365 days a year, so don’t hesitate to talk to us whenever you need to talk to a reliable attorney. You can also feel free to drop by our office that’s situated at 30700 Russell Ranch Road, Suite 250, Westlake Village, California, 91362 anytime you want to have a face-to-face conversation with our professionals.

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