The consequences of violating the criminal laws do not go away once you have completed serving your sentence. If you have a felony or misdemeanor conviction, it could be a factor employers hold against you when you compete for a job against other applicants with clean California criminal records. Even individuals who are not convicted have their arrest records kept by the state until they the individual reaches 100 years of age.
Employers in California are prohibited from asking you about an arrest. They can only inquire about convictions, but you might want to have arrests removed from your records. There is a procedure to have arrests that did not result in convictions removed from the California criminal records that you might have on file. Here are three important facts to know about the process of sealing arrest records.
Eligibility for having California criminal records sealed
If you were arrested in California after you became an adult, you are eligible for permanent sealing of your arrest records as long as you meet one of the following criteria:
- Your arrest did not result in the filing of criminal charges
- Your arrest resulted in the filing of criminal charges that were later dismissed
- Your arrest resulted in the filing of criminal charges, but you were found not guilty after a trial
The law allowing for the sealing of arrest records recognizes that police can make an arrest based upon the facts existing at the time, but prosecutors might later determine that the evidence discovered during the investigation does not support the filing of charges. The law also recognizes that criminal charges are merely accusations until they are proven in court.
You have to be proactive
A Petition for Factual Innocence asking a court to seal an arrest record must be filed by you or by your attorney within two years of the later of either the date of your arrest or the filing of charges. Copies of the petition must be served on the police agency that made the arrest and on the district attorney's office that prosecuted the case if charges were filed.
If you were charged with a nonviolent drug possession crime and completed a drug treatment program, you might be eligible to have the criminal charges dismissed and the arrest record sealed. You must have completed all conditions of any probation sentence imposed by the court to be eligible.
The benefits of sealing your records
The process from when you first obtain a copy of your California criminal records and file the Petition for Factual Innocence until the court issues a ruling can take three months or longer until it is completed. If the court rules in your favor, your arrest records eligible for sealing will be permanently removed and destroyed.
You might want to review your California criminal records with an attorney experienced in handling applications for the sealing of records to determine if you are eligible. If one of the records involves a drug possession charge, the attorney could determine if you are eligible for a dismissal and sealing of that case.