Having any kind of conviction on your criminal record can cause you to miss out on many opportunities. Our society is such that criminals are stigmatized and unfairly discriminated against for what are sometimes only small indiscretions made in their youth or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luckily, there is a way you can clean up your criminal record and erase evidence of these charges if you are in good standing with the criminal justice system. This is called sealing your record. Sealing also subsequently results in the destruction of your records after a period of time. Sealing and destroying your records differs from dismissals (expungements) in that your records are completely sealed and not accessible by anyone. With dismissals, your charge will still show up on your record, however, it will be noted as dismissed. This allows you to withhold disclosure of your charge from prospective employers who question you about your criminal past. In doing so, it prevents you from being discrimination against in the workforce. In sealing your record, however, the charge itself will be completely erased. Not only can you withhold disclosure about the charge or arrest to prospective employers, but also if anyone did happen to run a criminal background check on you, they wouldn't see any sign of your charge at all.
Sealing your record is a way to start completely fresh, but unfortunately, very few types of criminal records are eligible to be sealed under California law. Arrests that did not end in a conviction, as they appear on your arrest record, can be sealed and destroyed. People are wrongfully arrested from time to time. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time or being misidentified as a perpetrator can result in an unfair arrest. You could also be arrested but never convicted, because your case was dismissed or the charges were otherwise dropped. Even without ending in a conviction, the arrest will show up on your arrest record. While most California employers cannot ask prospective employees about arrests that did not end in a conviction, it is still viewable by anyone who looks at your record. Conviction or not, an arrest isn't something you want hanging over your head. Fortunately, those who have been wrongfully arrested or have arrests that did not end in a conviction on their record may be able to erase the arrest. In this process, all evidence of the arrest will disappear from your record. To seal your arrest record, you may request the law enforcement agency that arrested you to seal the records, and they will be destroyed three years from the sealing date. If the agency does not grant your request, which they can do so if you do not successfully plead your case, you can petition the court to seal your record. This process can be difficult, especially if you are without representation. You cannot simply ask that your arrest record be sealed. You must demonstrate you were innocent of the crime and convince the law enforcement agency or judge that you deserve to have your arrest records sealed. If you are serious about sealing your arrest records, you should at least consult with a California criminal defense attorney prior to making the request.
You can also seal your juvenile records if you are at least 18 years of age. Many people think your juvenile records are automatically destroyed when you turn 18. This isn't the case. You are simply eligible to petition to have them sealed and destroyed once you turn 18. To seal your juvenile records, you must file a petition with the juvenile court in which you were adjudicated. Sealing your juvenile record will mean no one has access to it. And, five years after you seal your records, they will be destroyed permanently. If you do not petition to have your juvenile record sealed, they will automatically be destroyed upon your 38th birthday, but this is a very long time to wait to move on from your juvenile adjudication. Also, if you successfully completed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Juvenile Justice Division program, your conviction will be automatically dismissed with your graduation. Lastly, if you have an infraction conviction of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for personal use, you do not have to petition to have it sealed or destroyed. Your conviction will automatically be erased two years from your conviction date. There is no petition process for this erasure. It must be noted that this does not apply to convictions prior to January 1, 1976, or convictions for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, concentrated marijuana, or possession of marijuana for sale or transport; none of these can be erased from your record.
Not everyone has the option to seal their criminal record, but those that do can benefit greatly from the process. For the purposes of seeking employment, sealing your record may help you land that job you want. It is a worthy investment if you are career minded and don't want your past mistakes to hold you back. This is especially true for those with juvenile records, because even your juvenile adjudications will show up your criminal record as an adult. Keep in mind, the process of sealing your records can be complicated and not all petitions are granted, so be sure to consult with a criminal defense attorney if you need assistance.
If you are in the Tulare, Kings or Fresno County area and have questions about sealing your criminal record, contact experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens for expert counsel. The skilled legal team at The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help ensure you take the right next steps in your case and will ensure you the best possible chance at sealing your record. Contact our offices in Hanford and Visalia at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.