Posted by Brett Hartmann | Feb 22, 2021

Sealing Your Arrest Record in California

            When you are arrested for a crime in California, the record of your arrest is public information. This is true even if the prosecutor never files criminal charges or if your case is later dismissed. An arrest can show up on a background check requested by potential employers, schools, landlords, insurance companies, etc.

Unfortunately, it is very common for people to be arrested without ever being given an opportunity to clear their names. However, under California law, there are ways that a criminal defense attorney can help you seal your arrest record. By sealing your arrest record, this information would no longer show up on a background check.

Prior to 2018, a person could only have an arrest record sealed by either by being found not guilty after trial, or by petitioning the court and proving “factual innocence” at a hearing. However, as of January 1, 2018, Senate Bill 393 provides new possibilities for having an arrest record sealed.

Pursuant to Penal Code Section 851.91, a person is entitled to have his or her arrest record sealed as a matter a right under certain circumstances. Generally, you can have your arrest record sealed if the prosecutor has not filed charges (or charges have been dismissed/reversed on appeal) and the statute of limitations has run. Additionally, you can have your arrest record sealed if you complete certain diversion programs, such as drug diversion or military diversion.

Once you prove that you meet the criteria described above, the burden is switched to the Prosecutor to prove that you are ineligible to have your arrest record sealed. You would be ineligible to have your arrest record sealed if the prosecutor can still bring charges or if you intentionally evaded law enforcement efforts to prosecute the arrest. Additionally, you could be ineligible if you have a pattern of arrests or convictions for domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse. (For purposes of this law, a “pattern” is two (or more) convictions or five (or more) arrests.) However, even if you are potentially “ineligible,” a judge can still seal your arrest record if you can show that doing so would, “serve the interests of justice.”

If the judge grants your petition to seal your arrest record, the judge will order the California Department of Justice to update your master criminal record. Once the record is sealed, it is generally unlawful for anyone to disseminate the record of your arrest. The record is still technically accessible to law enforcement agencies, but there is a very limited scope of how that record can be used.

The Crawford Law Firm has skilled criminal defense attorneys that will help with sealing your arrest record. Call us today for a free consultation!

About the Author

Brett Hartmann

Brett Hartmann is a Monterey County local, having moved here at 10 years old. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of California, San Diego, Brett moved back home to Salinas to give back to the community. Shortly after moving home, Brett enrolled at Monte...

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