If you want to put your best foot forward when it comes time to search for a new job, you may want to seal your arrest record in California. If you've been arrested but none of those arrests led to a conviction, a new California law can help you make your record sparkling clean when employers and other interested parties want to take a look. To make sure that you're ready to tackle this legal process when the time comes, it's important for you to know everything you can about arrest sealing in California and the specific ways that qualified legal teams can help you navigate the complex framework surrounding this exciting new development in California law.
What Is an Arrest Record?
An arrest record is a log of all of your arrests that is kept by the state of California. Even if an arrest doesn't lead to a conviction, record of this arrest will be added to your record. Every time that you have an interaction with law enforcement that leads to arrest, a record of this interaction is kept, and these records will stay on file unless you take action. All types of arrests are logged in your arrest record, so even arrests for seemingly petty offenses can follow you for decades and make it difficult to get the jobs that you want. Recent legislation, however, has made it possible to seal your arrest record, which makes it legally inadmissible for anyone but law enforcement officials to view these arrests.
What Is Arrest Sealing in California?
Arrest sealing is the process of sealing your arrest record. This process was made a matter of right with California Senate Bill 393, which was signed into law in October of 2017. Arrest sealing is now enshrined as a right of all citizens of the state of California by California Penal Code 851.87 PC, which allows California citizens to have their arrests sealed as a matter of right if the following conditions are met:
- No criminal charges were ever filed for the arrests in question.
- Criminal charges were filed, but they were later dismissed.
- The defendant was acquitted in a jury trial.
- The defendant appealed successfully to have their conviction vacated or overturned.
- The defendant completed a pretrial pre-sentencing or diversion program.
Are There Exceptions for Arrest Sealing?
Even if you were never convicted for your arrest or arrests and you meet all of the above conditions, there are still certain circumstances under which the state of California will refuse to seal your arrest. If you have arrests or convictions on your record for domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse, the state will refuse to consider your request to have your arrests sealed.
If even one of your arrests is for one of the above crimes, and even if you were never convicted of one of the above crimes, the state of California may be reluctant to seal any of your arrests. Technically, your arrest record must display a pattern of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse for your right to have your arrests sealed to be taken away, but a judge may still see your case differently if it appears that you may be prone to these crimes. In regards to these crimes, a pattern is defined as two or more arrests or more than five arrests within a three-year period.
However, this refusal to seal your arrests can always be overturned by a judge if they feel that is in the interests of justice to do so. Therefore, your ability to seal your arrests if you have been arrested or convicted for domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse all depends on your ability to convince a judge that the potential situation in which these arrests or convictions remain on your record is unfair or unreasonable. This state of affairs makes it even more important for you to have a qualified arrest sealing attorney at your side when it comes time to state your case before a judge.
Should You Seal Your Arrests in California?
There may be some situations in which it might not make sense for you to seal your arrests in California. For instance, if you don't care about the fact that potential employers, partners, and random people off the street can see information detailing all of the times that you were arrested, sealing your arrests might not matter that much to you. To most of us, however, it matters that arrest and conviction records are available for the public to see, and if you're anything like the average California citizen, it probably makes sense to seal your arrests if you can.
Prospective employers, insurance companies, and state licensing agencies will all be interested to know about your arrest history whenever you interact with them, and sealing your arrests makes sure that these interested parties will only see a clean slate when they look you up in the California law enforcement database. Of course, these parties can also see that you were never convicted for your arrests if you don't seal them, but you can't trust these individuals to distinguish the fine line between arrests and convictions. Even though it's illegal for employers in California to discriminate against job applicants if their arrests never led to convictions, it's best to seal your arrests altogether with the help of a qualified California arrest sealing attorney.
When you seal your arrest record in California, you don't just seal records of your arrest. You also seal any fingerprints, photos, police investigative reports, or court records that may be associated with the arrest. If you value your privacy, you should pursue the process of sealing your arrest record without delay.
Are There Alternatives to California Arrest Sealing?
As we mentioned previously, only persons who have arrests on their record that did not lead to convictions are eligible for arrest sealing in California. If any of your arrests have led to convictions, you are not eligible for arrest sealing, but you may be eligible for expungement under certain circumstances. Expungement is a process by which convictions are removed from your record, but expungement is not a right in the state of California. Instead, it is a privilege that you must work quite hard to be granted.
The reason why expungement is hard to achieve in California is that you have already been found guilty of a crime that you have been convicted of. Therefore, there is proof in the court proceedings and the conviction paperwork that you committed the crime, which means that many more conditions must be met to reverse this finding than is the case with arrest sealing. If you want to have convictions expunged from your record, it is absolutely essential that you seek the services of an attorney who is well versed in this subject.
What Particular Factors Prohibit a Person from Sealing Their Arrests?
If you have been arrested for certain crimes, you are ineligible for arrest sealing. However, you will also be ineligible for arrest sealing if a variety of other factors are at play. You will not be eligible for arrest sealing if:
- You were charged for any offenses upon which the arrest was based even if you weren't convicted for some of the offenses stipulated in the arrest.
- The arrest was for any crime for which there is no statute of limitations under California law, such as murder, unless you were acquitted or found innocent of the charge.
- You weren't charged because you intentionally avoided the efforts of law enforcement officials to prosecute your arrest. Leaving the jurisdiction in which the arrest was made is an example of evading charges.
- You avoided prosecution for your arrest by engaging in identify fraud, and you were eventually criminally charged for this act of identity fraud.
Can a Sealed Arrest Record Still Be Used?
While sealing your arrest record destroys this record for most purposes, it doesn't destroy it entirely. If you are prosecuted for any other offense after your arrest record has been sealed, your previous arrest record can be used as evidence in court. If, in the course of its normal duties, a criminal justice agency finds it necessary to disclose and share your arrest record with law enforcement, they may also do so. Here are a few examples of things that do not change even if you seal your arrests:
- Sealing your arrest record does not preclude you from registering as a sex offender pursuant toCalifornia Penal Code 290 PC.
- If your arrest prohibits you from holding public office, this prohibition stays in effect even if you seal your arrest record.
- Prohibitions against owning firearms and susceptibility to California's "felon with a firearm" law stay in effect with a sealed arrest record.
- If you are directly asked to disclose information on your arrest pursuant to the law in the case of application for public office, employment as a law enforcement officer, or in the process of licensing with a state or local agency, you must also disclose such arrest information.
Can You Seal All of Your Arrests at Once?
No, you can only seal one arrest at a time. If you want to seal multiple arrests that are on your record, you will need to submit separate petitions for each arrest.
When Should You File for Arrest Sealing?
Under Penal Code 851.8, which was the previous law in place for governing the process of arrest sealing, applicants were only provided with two years from the date of their arrest to request arrest sealing. However, the new legislation, Penal Code 851.87, provides applicants with an unlimited amount of time to seal their arrests. Even though you can now file to seal your arrest at any time, you should still get ahead of the game an seal your arrests as quickly as possible. Qualified California arrest sealing attorneys can help you learn more about the best timing when it comes to sealing your arrests.
How Do You Seal Arrest Records in California?
When you're ready to seal your arrest, you'll need to pursue the following process. First, you'll need to file your request to seal your arrest either in the court where the charges based on the arrest were filed or in the city or county where the arrest took place if no charges were filed. Then, the petition must be served on both the prosecuting attorney in the city or county where the arrest took place and the law enforcement agency that made the arrest.
The petition must include the following information:
- The petitioner's full legal name and date of birth.
- The date of the arrest in question.
- The city and county where the arrest happened.
- The name of the law enforcement agency that made the arrest.
- The case number or court number of the arrest if available.
- The names of the alleged offenses upon which the arrest was based.
- If applicable, a legal statement that the petitioner is entitled to have their arrest sealed in the interests of justice or as a matter of right.
- A statement regarding how justice would be served by arrest sealing if the petitioner is asking to have their arrest sealed based on the interests of justice.
If the petition is contested by the D.A., a hearing will be scheduled. The county where you live will determine whether you must appear in court or whether your defense attorney can represent you, and the hearing will consist of an examination of your arrest record.
How Long Does It Take to Seal Arrest Records?
After you file a petition, it generally takes about 90 days for your petition to receive a court order. Once the court issues the order to seal your arrest, the court will notify the law enforcement agency that performed the arrest, the administrators of master criminal history records, and the California Department of Justice that your records are to be sealed. Then, your record will be stamped to make it unavailable to anyone outside of the criminal justice sector.
Finding an Arrest Sealing Attorney Near Me
To get the professional help you need when it comes time to seal your arrest record in California, reach out to the qualified team at the offices of Leah Legal. Navigating the intricacies of the California penal code can be tough, but the expert legal minds at Leah Legal can make the process simple and straightforward. To receive the legal help you need, call Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Leah Legal at 818-484-1100.