People are wrongfully arrested and charged with crimes they didn't commit in California every day. Law enforcement does its best, but sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time can result in a false criminal accusation. Those who are truly innocent may be released before charges are even filed. Still others who are officially charged with a crime later have their cases dismissed because of a lack of evidence. And even some whose cases go to trial may be found not guilty and acquitted of the charges. Though these people may get away without having a conviction, the arrest and criminal charge will still appear on their criminal record. Even if you are found innocent, it can be hard to explain this to a potential employer or landlord who may not want to give a chance to someone who has even been accused of a crime. You may seem high risk, and in some scenarios, this can put you at an unfair disadvantage. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact the criminal accusation has on your life.
California law provides that those who are arrested but have not had any accusatory pleading filed against them (i.e. the person is found factually innocent) can file a factual innocence motion under California Penal Code 851.8. Through such a motion, you can request the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over your case to seal the arrest record. You can file such a motion if you were:
- Arrested but charges were never filed
- Arrested and charged, but the charges were dismissed
- Arrested, charged, but found innocent at trial
The motion is a petition for relief. The relief is having your record sealed. The arrest record is then sealed for three years and destroyed after that. During the period of sealing, the record will show a notice of sealing. The details of the offense, however, are not shown. Once the arrest record is destroyed after three years, no evidence of the arrest will exist in the public record.
As you can see, even those who are factually innocent of wrongdoing can suffer the consequences of the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, this system keeps meticulous records, and these records can be used against you. You should consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you have questions about cleaning your criminal record. Being acquitted of a criminal charge may be enough to prove your factual innocence, but it still may not cast a favorable light upon you when applying for jobs or housing. In a judgmental society, those who are wrongfully arrested, accused and charged with crimes face discrimination even after being found factually innocent. A knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney can help you move on from your charges if your acquittal is still holding you back. An attorney can advise you of your options for cleaning your record, the time frame in which you can take such action, and help you petition the law enforcement agency or the court with jurisdiction over your case to clean your record.
It is also a good idea to consult with an attorney as early on in the process as possible. An attorney may be able to contact the district attorney before charges are even filed. If involved early enough, an attorney may be able to convince the district attorney the evidence against you is insufficient to convict you. In light of this, the district attorney will may see it as a good use of county resources to charge you without enough evidence to convict you. An attorney may even be able to contact the district attorney after charges are filed to discuss your case. A skilled attorney may be able to get the district attorney to dismiss the charges at that point. It is important to involve an attorney in your case as early as possible even if you are innocent. The sooner you can involve an attorney, the less chance you have of being wrongfully convicted and the easier it will be to clean your record once all is said and done.
Do you have questions about facing criminal charges? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your rights and help you navigate the criminal prosecution process. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Christopher Martens will aggressively defend your rights and help you get the outcome you want. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.