Arrest records are available to the general public, and anyone can view them. Insurance companies, property managers, and potential employers can access these records during background checks, denying you many opportunities. Luckily, California permits you to seal apprehension records if you were never convicted or had a sustained petition in the juvenile court. When you seal the records, they stop showing up when an individual does background checks. At the Monterey Criminal Attorney, we can help you with record sealing if your criminal arrests did not lead to a conviction or a sustained juvenile petition.

Recording Sealing at a Glance

2017 Governor Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 393 into law. The law allowed arrestees to request that the court seal arrest records under particular circumstances. One of the sections that codifies SB 393 is PEN 851.87.

Unlike criminal convictions, arrest records remain in the police database. Every time an officer searches your identity or presents a background check, the apprehension record pops up even when no formal charges were filed or the apprehension was by mistake. Apprehension records follow you everywhere, even when you have not committed any crime. Thankfully, after SB 393, arrest records are no longer challenging.

Today, the law provides automatic apprehension record sealing if you were apprehended but never charged or found guilty of an offense. Record sealing means removing your apprehension details from the public database to make them inaccessible.

You will benefit from the statute if the arrest was for a non-violent, non-sexual offense, you were arrested but never charged or convicted, or the arrest was unlawful. You can live a peaceful life without past mistakes haunting you.

When petitioning for record sealing, talk to an experienced criminal lawyer to explain the process and obtain all the necessary paperwork to clear the arrest. At the Monterey Criminal Attorney, we have competent lawyers ready to help you in the entire case and seal your records. We have helped many people in your situation deal with post-conviction-related matters and are ready to do the same for you.

If you are apprehended and searching for a job or have a life event requiring a clean record, you can request the court to make the arrest detention before applying to seal the arrest. The law court will grant you a detention document or certificate. With the certificate, you will not miss out on any opportunities because you are not mandated to reveal the arrest while waiting for the judge to grant your petition to close the apprehension record. The circumstances under which you can request the certificate are:

  • When the apprehending office arrested you without an arrest warrant, and the court discharged you later for lack of proof.
  • If an apprehending officer apprehends you short of authorization and refers you to a hospital or ER without submitting your file to the DA to file formal charges.
  • An officer apprehends you for being under the influence, fails to submit a valid arrest warrant, and the prosecutor fails to prefer formal charges against you.

Eligibility for California Record Sealing

PEN 851.87 provides criteria that you must follow if you plan to seal your record. You qualify for record sealing if the following is true:

  • No formal criminal charges were filed.
  • The prosecutor preferred formal charges, but the court dismissed them.
  • The court acquitted you of the counts in a jury trial.
  • Your conviction was overturned or vacated by an appellate court.
  • You completed a pre-trial diversion program.
  1. Proving an Apprehension Did not Lead to a Guilty Verdict

You were never convicted of a crime if the prosecutor never filed formal counts against you and all the timelines provided by the law for the charges have lapsed. An expired or lapsed statute of limitations means that the duration provided by the law to file charges has lapsed and that the DA can no longer file criminal charges for the arrest.

Again, you qualify for sealing if the DA preferred criminal charges and your case reached the jury trial phase but was dismissed. Under the circumstances, the prosecutor cannot refile the charges, making you eligible for record sealing.

Similarly, when the court drops your formal counts after completing a pre sentencing diversion program, like drug treatment, any apprehension that did not result in a guilty verdict should be sealed. However, you cannot seal the records if the prosecutor brought charges against you and they were never dismissed.

Do not be scared because you are ineligible for sealing. You can file for expunction under PEN 1203.4, although the expunction procedure is more complex than record sealing. Also, an expunction is available if you are found guilty of the charges against you.

  1. Automatic Sealing of Arrests

Under special circumstances, record sealing is a matter of right and should happen automatically without filing a petition to demonstrate your eligibility.

Before the adoption of SB 393 into law, if you were apprehended for a crime but the charges were dropped or thrown out, you could not petition the court to seal your records. Instead, you had the burden of proof and had to show your innocence. It was not the work of the DA to prove beyond moral certainty that you are guilty of the alleged offense.

Nevertheless, after the SB 393 enactment became law, the proof burden shifted to the DA. It became the responsibility of the DA to show you are ineligible. The DA does this by claiming that they still have the chance to refile the charges or demonstrate a consistent pattern of engaging in domestic violence or elder abuse. Every California arrestee is eligible for automatic record sealing if the apprehension did not lead to a guilty verdict or there are no exceptions like domestic violence.

Ineligibility for Record Sealing

Not every party arrested for a misdemeanor or felony can file to seal their records. The court will not seal an arrest if the prosecutor shows that you will likely still face formal counts for the offense leading to your arrest. When the offense is for a violent felony like murder or another offense without a statute of limitation, you will be ineligible for the sealing because there is a possibility the DA will still file charges. The only way to seal murder arrest records is if you obtain an acquittal in a trial or prove factual innocence.

It is worth understanding that even if you received an acquittal for the charges or no formal counts were preferred against you, you will be ineligible to seal the records if you eluded the efforts of the police executing the apprehension. For example, you cannot seal the record if you escaped your jurisdiction to avoid arrest.

Besides, you are ineligible for sealing if the arrest you want to seal was for an identity theft offense and you attempted to elude the efforts of police officers to carry out the apprehension. Again, you are not fit to seal your records if formal charges for identity theft were filed against you after an attempt to evade arrest.

Furthermore, you are unfit to seal your apprehension record when you have demonstrated a consistent pattern of participating in particular crimes like child abuse, domestic violence, or elder abuse. For this statute, a pattern entails having several convictions for the same offense. When you have been arrested for domestic violence at least five times in thirty-six months, then it is evident there is a pattern of crime. 

Despite your record demonstrating a pattern of child or elder abuse, you can still petition to close your apprehension records if you are acting in justice’s interest. Several elements determine whether a record sealing request is in the interest of justice. These aspects are:

  • The hardships or life challenges you face because of the arrest record.
  • Evidence of your excellent moral character.
  • Testimony about your arrest or conviction record.

The judge will consider these factors to decide whether to grant your petition for arrest record sealing. You could qualify for record sealing even when you believe you are not. Therefore, if an apprehension record haunts you, talk to an experienced attorney to evaluate your case’s circumstances and guide you appropriately on the petition.

Record Sealing Process

Several stages are involved in record sealing. These are:

Petition Filing

You must file the request to seal the apprehension record in the city or county where the arrest happened if no formal charges were preferred against you. Alternatively, you can bring the petition to court, where formal charges for the arrest were filed. Your defense attorney must ensure the petition contains the following:

  • Your official name and birth date.
  • Place, date, and time of the apprehension.
  • The city or county where the apprehension happened.
  • The name of the law enforcement authority that arrested you.
  • Additional information about the arrest, like case number.
  • Exhaustive details of the offense resulting in the apprehension.
  • A report on whether the petition for record sealing is automatic or it is in justice’s interest.

When filing for the interest of justice, ensure you mention how approving the petition will serve your interests. 

Ensure that all the details of the arrest the DA needs are in the petition. An experienced attorney knows what must be included in a petition; hence, they will ensure all the information is captured before filing. Also, the petition has strict timelines. You must submit it within fifteen days of the hearing, so you need an attorney to assist you in meeting the deadlines.

Petition Serving

Once you have prepared your petition, the next step is to serve the relevant parties with copies. These individuals include the arresting enforcement agency and the city or county DA in the place of arrest. If the relevant parties are not served through the right channels, your petition will not go through.

Awaiting the Judge’s Response

The judge and DA will evaluate your petition. If the prosecutor is not opposed to the record sealing, the court will grant your request. Alternatively, the judge can schedule a petition hearing if the prosecutor requests or opposes the record sealing.

Petition Proceeding

If you receive a notice of petition hearing, you should know that the DA is contesting your petition for record sealing. This happens if your petition is not a matter of right but to serve justice’s interests. The court schedules a proceeding if you portray a pattern of elder or child abuse and domestic abuse.

The county where the hearing happens will determine if you will appear in person or be represented by your attorney. In the hearing, your lawyer will present the necessary proof explaining why granting the petition serves justice’s interest, and the prosecutor will give reasons why they are opposed to the record sealing. After the judge evaluates the evidence, they will grant or dismiss the petition. The court can dismiss the application with prejudice, meaning you lose the right to record sealing permanently. Therefore, when going for the hearing, have an attorney in your corner to lower the chances of the petition denial with prejudice.

When the court decides that granting the petition is in the best interests of justice, they will notify the apprehending officers or officers handling the apprehension records about the sealed records. The communication about the record sealing must happen within thirty days of the court’s decision. The notified parties will then seal the records and stamp on your file that the details cannot be released to parties outside the criminal justice system, keeping your name out of the public eye.

However, you and the law enforcement authorities will still have access to the records. The records can be brought up later in court if you are apprehended and charged with a subsequent offense. Record sealing does not serve any purpose for the criminal system or enforcement authorities.

Benefits of Record Sealing

There are several benefits associated with record sealing. These are:

  1. It increases the chances of securing employment

Assembly Bill (AB) 1008 prescribes the Fair Chance Act. The Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against job applicants because of their past arrest records if the apprehensions did not lead to convictions. Unfortunately, many prospective employers do not disclose why the application was unsuccessful to applicants. It enables many employers to deny job opportunities to applicants with arrest records. As the applicant, you will have no basis for suing the employer for violating the Act because you do not know why the application was unsuccessful.

Record sealing will benefit your job application because the arrest will not pop up even when the employer checks your criminal record. You no longer have to worry about the arrest, as the records are only available to a few state authorities, giving you a better chance of employment.

  1. It is Possible to Obtain State Licensing

Many Californians pursue learning programs that require professional licenses from various state agencies. You could miss the certification with a poor record, hurting your career. However, when you seal the poor records, the state will issue these professional licenses because you have a clean slate. Record sealing enhances your chances of acquiring the necessary state licenses.

  1. You can Become a Member of Various Professional Bodies

Particular professional organizations do not need members to be professional license holders. However, they run thorough checks on the candidates to ensure they are issuing memberships to the right people. When your apprehension record is sealed, you will not have difficulties obtaining membership in these groups because they will not have access to these records.

  1. School and College Admission Become Easy

Several learning institutions, like schools, colleges, and universities, run criminal background checks on applicants before admission. You will have a stress-free time enrolling in these institutions if you seal the arrest records because you have no obligation to reveal a previous arrest.

Record Sealing Limitations

Sealing an apprehension record will offer several benefits, including making it easy to secure employment, rent an apartment, apply for a loan, or acquire a professional certificate. However, the sealed records will not remove certain limitations. When you are a registered sex predator, the obligation to register will still stand even after record sealing. If you are banned from holding public office because of the apprehension, sealing it will not lift the ban. Also, record closing will not lift the ban on owning or buying a gun.

Similarly, you must still reveal the past arrest under particular circumstances. The instances in which you disclose the poor apprehension record are:

  • When applying for public office.
  • When applying for the position of a peace officer.
  • When entering an agreement with the California Lottery Commission.

Moreover, record sealing only applies to one instant of arrest. When you have multiple arrests, you must submit separate petitions for these events.

Record Sealing for Juvenile Records

The Welfare and Institution Code (WIC) 781 allows the sealing of juvenile sustained petition records. When your petition to seal goes through, all the records linking to the sustained petition are removed from the public database.

Sealing these records eliminates the stigmatization associated with your past mistakes as a juvenile. The records that are erased include:

  • Apprehension reports.
  • The juvenile court’s disposition.
  • Proof.
  • Probation report.

Unlike adult criminal courts, which punish offenders, the juvenile justice system aims to rehabilitate. Therefore, even if the juvenile court sustains the petition against you for a crime, you will only become a court ward and have no criminal sentence record. You can claim to have no record without committing perjury.

Even though you are not obligated to reveal these details to landlords, potential employers, and schools, failure to disclose them can disadvantage you if they are discovered. Therefore, when you have a record of a sustained juvenile petition, you must seal it to avoid instances where people deem you dishonest for not disclosing a criminal history.

Juvenile Record Sealing Criteria

Before sealing your juvenile record, consult the Monterey Criminal Attorney for eligibility. Per WIC 781, you can petition to seal your record if:

  • You are 18 or older, or five years have passed since the termination of your jurisdiction by the juvenile justice court.
  • You have not been found guilty of a moral turpitude offense like fraud, theft, sex, or drug offenses as an adult.
  • The judge believes you are reformed.
  • You lack any unresolved civil suits stemming from juvenile delinquency.

You cannot petition for record sealing if you are over 14 years old and found guilty of a WIC 707(b) offense.

The Procedure of Sealing Juvenile Records

Record sealing in WIC 781 is complicated and lengthy. The process takes, at most, ten months. Therefore, if you plan to streamline and complete the procedure within the average time, you should partner with an experienced criminal lawyer.

Your legal representative will begin by submitting a petition to the juvenile justice court where the sustained petition occurred. If the judge is not requesting your court presence, your attorney can show up for you.

The attorney will ensure all the necessary information appears on the paperwork. You will then serve all the relevant parties with the paperwork. If the prosecutor or probation officer does not contest the application, the court will grant your request to seal juvenile records. It will also issue orders to relevant parties to seal and destroy the juvenile files.

If the prosecutor opposes the petition and succeeds, the court will deny your application. However, it would help if you did not lose hope and kept trying until the records were sealed.

By partnering with a competent attorney, you can increase the possibility of the application being approved for the first time.

You must understand that if the court grants a deferred entry judgment at the time of the petition and completes the diversion program as instructed, you will not have to file a petition to dismiss the record, as the court automatically seals the files.

Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Having an apprehension or juvenile record sealed offers several advantages, as you avoid collateral disabilities associated with the record. At Monterey Criminal Attorney, we can assist you in sealing these records and giving you a fresh start. Call us today at 831-574-1791 to discuss your case.