Record sealing is a legal procedure that conceals certain criminal records from public access. It is worth noting that even if you are not convicted of the crime you were arrested for, your arrest record remains on record. This record has some negative implications.

Record sealing’s significance lies in its ability to safeguard individuals' privacy and enhance their prospects for employment, housing, and various life aspects by rendering their criminal records inaccessible to the general public, which includes potential employers and landlords.

To fully maximize the advantages of record sealing, it is advisable to enlist the services of a criminal defense attorney. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, our specialized knowledge will prove invaluable in navigating the intricacies of the record-sealing process. We will help ensure you comply with the correct procedures and effectively address any potential challenges that could arise. This legal guidance is pivotal in pursuing a fresh start and the opportunity to move forward in life. Call our Anaheim attorneys today.

Record Sealing Under California Law

When your criminal record is sealed, it effectively disappears from most standard criminal background checks. This process hides your record and typically involves the destruction or inaccessibility of related materials, including fingerprints, police reports, booking photos, and entries on your rap sheet. The main goal here is to offer you a fresh start and an opportunity to move forward without the ongoing burden of a prior arrest record.

However, specific government agencies or law enforcement entities could still access your sealed records under particular circumstances.

California Senate Bill 731 introduces several significant changes regarding the expungement of criminal records within the state. Here is a look at the key provisions and their implications for you:

  • Automatic Clearing of Most Felony Convictions

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of SB 731 is that it provides for the automatic clearance of the majority of felony convictions four years after your case concludes. This feature is designed to provide a clean slate and alleviate the consequences of certain felony convictions on your record.

However, this automatic clearing does not extend to violent felonies, serious felonies, or felonies necessitating sex offender registration. These convictions will persist on your record.

  • Automatic Clearance of Uncharged Felony Arrests

SB 731 also addresses uncharged felony arrests, stipulating that felony arrests resulting in no formal charges will be automatically removed from your record after three years, regardless of the potential penalty, be it state prison or county jail.

  • Withdrawal of Guilty or No Contest Pleas

SB 731 introduces the possibility of withdrawing your guilty or no contest pleas in certain felony cases, provided you meet specific criteria. These withdrawals can lead to the dismissal of your case and the consequent automatic clearance of your associated criminal record.

This provision offers you an avenue to rectify prior convictions under particular circumstances.

  • Teaching License Application

Senate Bill 731 extends its reach to your teaching license applications. It ensures you will not face disqualification when applying for teaching licenses due to expunged drug possession convictions over five years old.

  • Potential Delays Due to New Criminal Cases

You need to remain vigilant regarding the automatic clearing of your records. If you accumulate new criminal cases in the interim, this could cause delays. New criminal cases can impact your eligibility for record clearance, as outlined in SB 731.

Eligibility for Relief Under The Clean Slate Act or Senate Bill 731

California's Clean Slate Law, now fully effective as of July 1, 2023, offers automatic relief to individuals by clearing most arrest and conviction records based on specific conditions and waiting periods. Below is a breakdown of when your criminal record becomes eligible for automatic relief:

  1. Misdemeanor arrest with no charges brought — Eligible for relief after one year from the arrest.
  2. Misdemeanor charge, which is dismissed — Eligible immediately upon dismissal.
  3. Misdemeanor conviction with probation granted — Eligible immediately after probation completion.
  4. Misdemeanor conviction without probation — Eligible for relief after one year from the case closure.
  5. Felony arrest with no charges brought — Eligible for relief after three years from the arrest.
  6. Felony charge which the courts dismiss — Eligible immediately upon dismissal.
  7. Felony conviction with probation granted (excluding violent, serious, or sex offender crimes) — Eligible immediately after probation completion.
  8. Felony conviction without probation (excluding violent, serious, or sex offender crimes) — Eligible for relief after four years from the case closure.

The Clean Slate Act simplifies the process by eliminating the need to file motions for record sealing or expungement, providing automatic relief. It extends this relief to felony convictions, even if an individual was previously incarcerated. This extension can significantly enhance employment and housing opportunities for many.

Note: If your criminal record is not eligible for automatic relief, you still have the option to pursue relief by filing a petition to seal or expunge your record. However, this law does not restore firearm rights.

Penal Code 851.87 gives individuals the right to seal their arrest records under specific conditions, as long as their arrest did not lead to a conviction. These conditions include the following:

  1. No charges filed — If no charges were brought against you, and the statute of limitations for potential infraction, misdemeanor, or felony charges has expired.
  2. Charges were filed but later dismissed — If charges were filed but subsequently dismissed, these charges cannot be reinstated. This dismissal could occur due to actions like the Penal Code 995 motion.
  3. Acquittal at trial (found "not guilty") — If you faced charges in a trial and were declared "not guilty" following a legal proceeding.
  4. Conviction vacated or reversed on appeal — If you were initially convicted but successfully had that conviction vacated or reversed on appeal, the charge(s) cannot be returned.
  5. Charges dismissed after successful program completion — If charges were dismissed following your successful participation in a pretrial or pre-sentencing program, for example, a drug diversion program.

Additionally, as of July 2022, California initiated the automatic sealing of misdemeanor records for individuals who maintained a clean legal record for one year. Further, in July 2023, the state began automatically sealing most felony records for individuals with a spotless record for four years.

Certain conditions specified by the law can disqualify individuals from having their records sealed. If you happen to fall into any of the following scenarios, your eligibility for sealing your arrest record will be compromised:

  1. You deliberately avoided law enforcement's efforts to prosecute your arrest, perhaps by leaving the jurisdiction.
  2. You are under the potential threat of charges for any offenses associated with your arrest.
  3. Your arrest pertained to a serious crime like murder or another offense with no statute of limitations unless you were acquitted or found factually innocent of the charge.
  4. You managed to evade prosecution for the arrest by engaging in identity fraud, subsequently leading to charges related to that fraudulent activity.

Distinction Between Record Sealing and Expungement

Expungement and record sealing are two distinct legal processes in California, each carrying its own implications for individuals with prior criminal records.

Record Sealing

This legal procedure involves concealing specific criminal records, rendering them inaccessible to the public, including potential employers and landlords. Sealed records typically do not surface during most standard criminal background checks. Materials tied to these records, for example, police reports, fingerprints, and booking photos, could either be destroyed or rendered inaccessible.

Individuals seeking record sealing, especially those with non-violent or minor offenses, aim to pave the way for a fresh start by mitigating the adverse consequences of their criminal records.


Expungement, or dismissal, addresses prior criminal convictions on an individual's record. In most situations, it effectively erases or dismisses a past criminal conviction, creating a legal stance where the individual can assert that they were never convicted of the expunged offense.

While expungement offers a significant boost to an individual's prospects by alleviating the burden of a conviction, it is worth noting that the expunged conviction could still be visible to specific government agencies and law enforcement entities under certain circumstances. These include particular background checks or legal proceedings.

Eligibility for expungement is contingent on various factors, such as:

  1. The nature of the offense.
  2. Successful completion of probation or sentence, and
  3. The absence of subsequent criminal convictions.

Sealing of Your Records As a Matter of Right

Under the previous law, PC 851.8, individuals who had been arrested bore the responsibility of proving their factual innocence. To have their arrest records sealed, they had to provide evidence demonstrating that they were indeed factually innocent.

However, a notable transformation occurred with the enactment of Senate Bill 393 and the introduction of PC 851.87. The burden of proof shifted from the arrested individuals to the prosecutors. Under the new law, the prosecutor must establish that someone is not entitled to have their record sealed. This change has significant implications as it simplifies the process for individuals seeking to seal their arrest records.

Consequently, due to these fundamental alterations, almost all individuals meeting the outlined criteria in Penal Code 851.87 now enjoy automatic sealing of their arrest records. This applies as long as the arrest did not result in a conviction and no exceptions come into play. The result is a streamlined and more accessible process for individuals meeting these criteria, allowing them to clear their records.

Access to Sealed Arrest Records in California: Understanding Exceptions and Legal Implications

Sealing an arrest record makes it inaccessible to the public, including potential employers and landlords. Legally, it is as if the arrest never happened. However, there are situations where a sealed arrest record could still be accessible and used:

Law Enforcement and Government Agencies

Specific law enforcement and government entities can maintain access to sealed arrest records, mainly for tasks like ongoing investigations or background checks for sensitive positions. Examples include police departments, the D.A.’s office, and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Courts and Legal Proceedings

Sealed arrest records can be brought into court proceedings related to a criminal case. This is especially pertinent if the arrest led to later dropped charges or if new charges are brought against the individual.

Specific Licensing and Employment Scenarios

In some instances, individuals applying for particular licenses or jobs could be required to reveal sealed arrest records. This often applies to roles in law enforcement, positions involving vulnerable individuals, or positions with security clearance requirements, like running for public office.

Government Agencies and Licensing Bodies

Government agencies and licensing bodies could access sealed records when evaluating specific professional license or certification applications.

California Victim Compensation Board

Findings of factual innocence and the sealing of arrest records according to specific sections of California law (for example, Penal Code 851.87) could be considered evidence in hearings before the California Victim Compensation Board.

Deadline for Having Your Arrest Record Sealed in California

Previously, PC 851.8 provided a strict two-year window for requesting the sealing of an arrest record. This window began with the later of either the arrest date or the filing of charges. However, the new law, Penal Code 851.87, removes this time limit for filing petitions.

We highly recommend initiating the process to seal your arrest record as soon as the prosecutor loses the ability to file or refile charges against you.

Sealing Your Arrest Record in California: The Process and Timeline

To successfully petition for the sealing of your arrest record in California, you must follow specific procedures and provide essential information. Here is a simplified guide to help you understand the key steps and requirements:

  • Filling a Petition in Court

You have two options for filing your petition:

  1. Superior court where charges related to the arrest were filed or
  2. City or county where the arrest took place if no charges were filed.

After filing your petition, you must serve it on two parties:

  1. The prosecuting attorney in the city or county where the arrest occurred.
  2. The law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest.

Additionally, PC 851.91 requires specific information for the petition. Make sure your petition includes the following details:

  1. Your full name and date of birth.
  2. The date of the arrest you want to seal.
  3. The city and county where the arrest happened.
  4. The name of the law enforcement agency involved and any case or court numbers.
  5. Details about the alleged offenses that led to the arrest or charges filed.
  6. A clear statement explaining why you are entitled to have your arrest record sealed, whether as a matter of right or in the interests of justice.
  7. If based on the interests of justice, provide a statement and supporting declarations explaining how granting the petition serves those interests.

Providing accurate and complete information is crucial for a successful record-sealing process in California.

  • The Hearing

A hearing will be arranged if the District Attorney challenges your petition to seal your California arrest record. Your county of residence will determine the necessity of your appearance in court or the representation of your criminal defense attorney.

During this hearing, the judge will carefully review your arrest record and, if necessary, evaluate the evidence supporting the argument for sealing in the interests of justice.

Judges possess significant discretion in the decision-making process regarding approving or denying your motion to seal and destroy your arrest records. There is also the possibility of a denial with prejudice, which would bar you from re-filing your request.

Hence, securing the services of a skilled Anaheim criminal defense attorney is paramount. The California Criminal Lawyer Group will conduct comprehensive research on your court case, ensure accurate completion of all paperwork from the start, and effectively represent you during the PC 851.87 hearing. This strategic approach minimizes the risk of delays caused by incomplete or inadequate forms and substantially enhances your prospects for a favorable outcome.

The timeline of the record-sealing process varies depending on the circumstances of your case, namely:

  1. Automatic seal under the Clean Slate Act — If your criminal record qualifies for an automatic seal under the Clean Slate Act, the clearance of your record occurs within one month.
  2. Petition-based sealing — In cases where you need to file a petition with the court, it usually takes around 90 days from the petition's filing date to obtain a court order for sealing an arrest record in California.
  3. Notification process — Within 30 days of the court's issuance of the order to seal an arrest record, notifications are dispatched to pertinent parties, which include:
    • The law enforcement agency or agencies involved in the arrest.
    • The law enforcement agency responsible for maintaining master criminal history records.
    • California’s DOJ.
  1. Record update — After receiving notifications, updates are made to the petitioner’s master criminal record and court record to reflect the sealed arrest. These records are marked with a notation prohibiting release outside the criminal justice sector.
  2. Limited disclosure — Sealed arrest records, police officer investigative reports, and court records are rigorously safeguarded against disclosure to most entities or individuals. Exceptions are confined to:
    • The person whose arrest was sealed.
    • Criminal justice agencies are granted access to the information as if the arrest had not been sealed.

This process is designed to uphold the privacy and confidentiality of individuals whose arrest records have been sealed, ensuring that only authorized entities can access this information.

What are My Legal Options if Someone Releases My Sealed Arrest Record?

Improperly disclosing a sealed arrest record in California carries grave legal consequences, which encompass the following:

Civil Penalties

Those responsible for the unauthorized release can face civil penalties, with fines ranging from $500 to $2,500 per violation. These penalties can be enforced by various legal authorities, including city attorneys, district attorneys, or the Attorney General.

Compensatory Damages

Individuals adversely affected by the unlawful release of their sealed arrest records have the right to pursue compensatory damages. These damages are designed to compensate for losses resulting from the improper disclosure.

Punitive Damages

In cases where the release was exceptionally reckless or deliberate, affected individuals could also have the option to seek punitive damages. These damages aim to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar misconduct in the future.

If you find yourself in a situation where your sealed arrest record has been improperly disseminated, it is best that you consult with a personal injury lawyer. Many attorneys offer free consultations to assess your circumstances and discuss potential legal remedies. An experienced attorney can assist you in understanding your rights, evaluating the extent of your damages, and navigating the process of seeking compensation or pursuing legal action against those responsible.

This legal recourse is instrumental in providing individuals with means to address the harm caused by the unauthorized release of their sealed arrest records and upholding their privacy and rights under California law.

Sealing Juvenile Records

Sealing and destroying an adult arrest record under PC 851.87 differs significantly from sealing a juvenile record. The eligibility criteria and process for sealing juvenile records are distinct:

  1. Age and jurisdiction — To qualify for sealing your juvenile criminal record, you must either currently be an adult or have had the jurisdiction of the juvenile court terminated for at least five years. This time requirement ensures that a certain period has elapsed since your involvement with the juvenile court system.
  2. Criminal convictions — As an adult, you must not have been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude. Moral turpitude crimes typically involve dishonesty or immoral behavior. A conviction for these offenses can affect your eligibility to seal your juvenile record.
  3. Civil litigation — There should be no pending civil litigation related to the juvenile incident. This means that any legal matters or lawsuits arising from the juvenile offense should have been resolved.

Meeting these criteria is crucial for your eligibility to initiate the process of sealing your California juvenile criminal record. These criteria aim to provide individuals who made youthful mistakes an opportunity for a fresh start in adulthood.

Contact a Anaheim Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Sealing your records can profoundly impact your life, offering a chance to overcome the enduring repercussions of a criminal conviction and reintegrate into society as a productive individual. If you consider this path, connecting with an adept attorney in Anaheim can significantly bolster your prospects of successfully navigating the process.

The California Criminal Lawyer Group is well-versed in record sealing. We can offer tailored guidance, ensuring you meet the requisite criteria and complete the necessary paperwork accurately. We are also equipped to represent your interests should any challenges or hearings arise in sealing. Contact us today at 714-766-0965 for further assistance.