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Can I Have My Arrest Records Sealed in California?

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on November 15, 2023

Arrest records can have a lasting impact on individuals, affecting various aspects of their lives, including employment opportunities and housing prospects. In California, there is an option to address this concern through record sealing. To successfully seal an arrest record in California, it is vital to have a firm grasp on legal criteria, procedures, and the potential benefits of sealing arrest records in the state.

Understanding Record Sealing in California

To seal an arrest record requires that a verified petition is filed at least 15 days before the hearing. The petition must include details such as the petitioner’s name, date of birth, arrest date, location, law enforcement agency involved, and information from the arrest records. The court may deny a petition for failure to meet requirements.

A hearing on the issue of sealing records may be necessary in some cases. At the hearing, evidence can be presented through declarations, affidavits, and reports. The petitioner has the initial burden of proof, and if satisfied, the burden shifts to the prosecuting attorney.

A petition may be granted either as a matter of right or in the interests of justice. Individuals eligible, as a matter of right, are entitled to have their arrest records sealed. For those seeking sealing in the interests of justice, factors considered include hardship caused by the arrest, the petitioner’s character, arrest details, and the petitioner’s record of convictions.

If the court grants the petition, a disposition report is sent to the Department of Justice. The petitioner receives a written ruling stating that the record of arrest has been sealed. However, certain exceptions exist, such as the ability to use the sealed arrest in subsequent prosecutions and obligations to disclose the arrest under specific circumstances.

Eligibility Criteria and Requirements

California Penal Code Section 851.91 provides individuals who have suffered an arrest that did not result in a conviction with the opportunity to petition the court to seal their arrest and related records. Under Section 851.91, a person may be eligible to have their arrest records sealed if the arrest did not lead to a conviction.

Eligibility includes situations where the statute of limitations has expired, no accusatory pleading was filed, the charges were dismissed, the individual was acquitted, or a conviction was vacated or reversed on appeal.

Certain circumstances render individuals ineligible for relief under Section 851.91. These include the possibility of facing charges for the same offenses, being charged with murder or other offenses without a statute of limitations (unless acquitted or found factually innocent), intentional evasion of law enforcement, or intentional evasion through identity fraud.

The Process of Sealing Arrest Records

The process of sealing arrest records involves several steps. Individuals must file a petition with the court, specifying the details of the arrest and the grounds for sealing the record. The court will review the petition, and if approved, the records will be sealed, making them inaccessible to the public.

Completing the necessary paperwork is crucial for a successful petition. This may include court forms, a declaration explaining the reasons for seeking record sealing, and any supporting documentation. Working with an experienced lawyer can ensure that all requirements are met.

Seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer is highly recommended when considering record sealing. An attorney who specializes in criminal law can provide valuable guidance throughout the process, ensuring that all legal requirements are met. They can also advocate on behalf of the individual, presenting a compelling case to the court.

Benefits of Sealing Arrest Records

Sealing arrest records can have significant benefits for individuals seeking to move forward with their lives. One of the key advantages is the potential improvement in employment prospects. Many employers conduct background checks, and a sealed record may not appear, increasing the likelihood of securing job opportunities.

Beyond employment, record sealing can positively affect various aspects of life. Housing applications often involve background checks, and a sealed record can make the process smoother. Additionally, individuals may experience improved access to educational opportunities and certain professional licenses.

Pursue Your Fresh Start with Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP

Ultimately, the ability to seal arrest records in California provides individuals with an opportunity for a fresh start in life. If you believe you qualify for record sealing and want to take the next step, contact Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP. Our experienced Los Angeles attorneys can provide the guidance and representation you need to navigate the process successfully and help you move forward with confidence.

Call (213) 688-0460 today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense