Ask the County Law Librarian – Expunging Criminal Records
Q: Several years ago, I was arrested for shoplifting. I haven’t been in trouble since then. Having the conviction on my record is making it hard for me to find a job, though. My friend said I might be able to have the record sealed, since it was a long time ago. Is this possible?
A: Most likely, yes! California law allows many types of criminal convictions to be “expunged.” This means that the case is reopened, your conviction is dismissed, and the case is closed without a conviction. In effect, you are no longer a convicted person. However, the case record itself will still exist, and the expungement will appear on your background check.
Expungement is an option for most types of offenses in which probation was ordered as part of the sentence (Penal Code 1203.4), most misdemeanors even if probation was not ordered (Penal Code 1203.4a), and some types of felonies (Penal Code 17).
If your conviction qualifies under Penal Code 1203.4, Penal Code 1203.4a, or Penal Code 17, you must have completed all aspects of your sentence prior to applying for expungement. In addition to completing your probation or incarceration, you must have fully paid all fines, fees, and restitution ordered in your case. If you have not finished paying these, or if you are currently the subject of any other criminal proceedings, your request for expungement will be denied.
The expungement process is fairly easy, requiring only two forms: CR-180 and CR-181. You will need a copy of your criminal history or case information to complete the forms. If your conviction was in Sacramento County, you should be able to access all the information you need from the Superior Court Case Index. Instructions for filling out these forms, as well as more information about expungement and a video walking you through the process, are available on the Law Library’s website.
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