Record Sealing

The legal process of record sealing allows individuals to conceal or limit access to specific criminal records, safeguarding them from public visibility. This procedure includes initiating a petition with the court, submitting the required documents, and potentially participating in a court hearing. Given the complexities involved, seeking legal assistance is advisable to enhance the chances of a favorable outcome. If you need legal help in record sealing, we at Darwish Law in Santa Ana are readily available to help you throughout the record sealing process.

Benefits of Record Sealing

Record sealing offers various advantages that extend beyond the courtroom. These benefits include:

Improved Employment Opportunities

One of the primary benefits of record sealing is the enhancement of employment prospects. A sealed record allows individuals to present themselves without the shadow of past convictions, increasing the likelihood of securing gainful employment.

Enhanced Housing Prospects

Sealed records can positively influence housing opportunities. Landlords often conduct background checks on potential tenants, and a clean record can be significant in securing housing. Record sealing allows individuals to pursue housing options without the impediment of a publicized criminal history.

Professional Licensing and Career Advancement

Certain professions require background checks for licensure, and record sealing can be crucial for individuals seeking careers in fields such as healthcare, law, or finance. It can open doors to professional opportunities that may have otherwise been closed due to a criminal record.

Restoration of Civil Rights

Record sealing may contribute to the restoration of civil rights that were temporarily restricted due to a criminal conviction. This can include the right to serve on a jury, the right to vote, and, in some cases, the right to possess a firearm.

Reduced Stigma and Social Reintegration

Beyond the legal implications, record sealing plays a pivotal role in reducing the societal stigma associated with a criminal history. Individuals who have successfully sealed their records can reintegrate into society with a sense of normalcy, avoiding unnecessary judgment and discrimination.

Increased Access to Educational Opportunities

Many educational institutions conduct background checks on applicants. Record sealing can increase access to educational opportunities, allowing individuals to pursue academic endeavors without the hindrance of a publicized criminal record.

Who is Eligible for Record Sealing?

The common factors considered when determining who is eligible to seal an arrest record include:

No Conviction or Acquittal

Individuals who have been arrested but not convicted or were acquitted of the charges are eligible to seal their arrest records. The absence of a conviction is a key factor because the legal presumption of innocence remains.

Successful Completion of Diversion or Deferred Entry of Judgment Programs

Some individuals may be eligible to seal their arrest records if they have completed diversion programs or deferred entry of judgment programs. These programs often involve rehabilitation efforts, such as counseling or community service, and aim to give individuals a chance to avoid a formal conviction.

Expungement of Convictions

Individuals who have successfully expunged their convictions may also be eligible to seal associated arrest records. Expungement involves fulfilling certain conditions, such as completing probation or parole and demonstrating rehabilitation.

Waiting Periods

The law imposes waiting periods before an individual becomes eligible to seal an arrest record. The length of the waiting period can vary and may depend on the seriousness of the offense. During this time, the individual must remain free from additional criminal activity and adhere to any court-ordered conditions.

Limited Criminal History

Eligibility to seal an arrest record may be contingent on having a limited criminal history. Individuals with multiple arrests or convictions may face more stringent criteria or may not be eligible at all, depending on the jurisdiction.

No Pending Criminal Cases

Individuals usually need to have resolved all criminal matters before becoming eligible to seal an arrest record. This includes not having any pending charges or cases in progress.

Who Does Not Qualify for Record Sealing in California?

Below are factors that might make someone ineligible for record sealing:

Convictions and Pending Charges

Individuals with convictions related to the arrest may not be eligible to have their arrest record destroyed. Additionally, those with pending criminal charges may need to wait until the resolution of their cases before seeking record destruction.

Failure to Complete Probation or Sentence

Eligibility for record destruction often requires successful completion of probation or the fulfillment of other court-ordered conditions. If an individual fails to complete the specified requirements, they may not be eligible.

Multiple Convictions

Individuals with multiple convictions may face limitations on record destruction eligibility. Most jurisdictions impose stricter criteria for individuals with a history of multiple convictions.

Registerable Sex Offenses

Certain sex offenses may be subject to registration requirements, and individuals convicted of these offenses may not be eligible for arrest record destruction.

Certain Serious Felonies

Some serious felonies, especially those specified under California law, may have restrictions on record destruction. Consultation with legal professionals is essential to understand the specific eligibility criteria related to these offenses.

The Process of Record Sealing in California

Here's an overview of the general process of record sealing in California:

Eligibility Determination

The first step in the process is determining whether an individual is eligible for record sealing. Eligibility criteria can vary based on factors such as the type of offense, the severity of the conviction, and the individual's criminal history. Consulting with a legal professional can help clarify eligibility based on the specific circumstances.

Obtain and Complete Forms

Once eligibility is established, the next step is to obtain the necessary forms for record sealing. These forms are typically available through the California court system, and they may include a petition for dismissal and other supporting documentation. It's important to complete these forms accurately and thoroughly.

Filing the Petition

The completed forms must be filed with the appropriate court. The filing location is often the court where the individual was convicted or, in some cases, where they currently reside. There may be filing fees associated with the petition, although fee waivers are available for those facing financial hardship.

Serving Notice to Relevant Parties

After filing the petition, notice must be served to relevant parties, including the prosecutor's office. This step ensures that all parties involved are aware of the request for record sealing. The prosecutor may have the opportunity to contest the petition.

Court Hearing (if required)

Depending on the circumstances and the court's discretion, a hearing may be scheduled to review the petition for record sealing. During the hearing, the individual or their legal representative may present arguments in favor of sealing the records, emphasizing rehabilitation and the reasons for seeking this relief.

Court Decision

Following the hearing or the submission of the petition, the court will decide on record sealing. If the court grants the petition, the records will be sealed, and access to the information will be restricted. If the petition is denied, the records remain accessible.

Notification to Relevant Agencies

Once the records are sealed, notification may be sent to relevant agencies, including law enforcement, to update their records accordingly. This step ensures that sealed information is properly restricted from public access.

Sealing an Arrest “As a Matter of Right”

Sealing an arrest "as a matter of right" represents a legal provision that allows certain individuals to automatically and unequivocally have their arrest records sealed without the need to demonstrate specific justifications or meet additional criteria. Possible scenarios in California where sealing an arrest might be considered more straightforward or "as a matter of right" include:

Arrests Not Leading to Convictions

Individuals in California who have been arrested but not convicted or have had charges dropped or dismissed may be entitled to automatic sealing of their arrest records. This acknowledges the principle of innocence until proven guilty and ensures that individuals are not unfairly burdened by the mere fact of an arrest.

Age-Related Offenses

California, like many jurisdictions, recognizes the need for special consideration for offenses committed by juveniles. In certain cases, arrest records related to juvenile offenses may be automatically sealed when the individual reaches a certain age, allowing for a fresh start.

Understanding Domestic Violence Arrest Record Sealing Under PC 851.87 in California

The primary objective of PC 851.87 is to allow eligible individuals to petition the court for the sealing of their arrest records related to domestic violence incidents. PC 851.87 applies to a specific group of individuals who have been arrested for domestic violence but were not subsequently charged, or the charges were dismissed, or the individual was acquitted. The eligibility criteria are focused on those who have not been convicted of the alleged offenses.

To avail themselves of the benefits of PC 851.87, individuals must file a petition with the court requesting the sealing of their arrest records. This process involves presenting evidence and arguments to demonstrate eligibility under the specified criteria.

The court has discretion in deciding whether to grant the petition for record sealing. Factors such as the absence of charges, the dismissal of charges, or an acquittal play a crucial role in the court's decision-making process.

Sealing Juvenile Records

The key aspects of sealing juvenile records in California include:

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility for sealing juvenile records in California is based on several factors, including the type of offense, completion of probation or parole, and the individual's age at the time of filing. Generally, individuals who have completed their juvenile court obligations may be eligible for record sealing.

Age Limit

Sealing juvenile records applies to individuals who committed offenses as minors. California law recognizes the importance of providing a fresh start to those who may have made mistakes during their youth, acknowledging the rehabilitative nature of the juvenile justice system.

The sealing process

The sealing process involves restricting access to records related to the juvenile's interactions with the justice system. This includes court records, probation records, and other documents associated with juvenile court proceedings. The goal is to shield these records from public view and limit access to certain entities.

Eligibility Determination

The first crucial step in sealing juvenile records is determining eligibility. Eligibility criteria can vary and may depend on factors such as the type of offense, completion of probation, and the individual's age at the time of filing for record sealing.

Obtain Necessary Forms

Once eligibility is established, individuals must obtain the necessary forms for filing a petition to seal their juvenile records. These forms are typically available through the juvenile court where the original case was adjudicated.

Completing the Petition

Completing the petition involves providing detailed information about the juvenile case, including the charges, case number, and details of the outcome. The petitioner may need to explain why they believe their records should be sealed and provide evidence of their rehabilitation.

Filing the Petition with the Juvenile Court

The completed petition is then filed with the juvenile court that handled the original case. Filing fees may apply, although fee waivers may be available for those facing financial hardship.

Serving Notice to Relevant Parties

Notice of the petition must be served to relevant parties, including the probation department and the district attorney's office. This step ensures that all parties involved in the original case are aware of the petition for record sealing.

Court Review and Decision

In some cases, a court hearing may be scheduled to review the petition. The court will consider factors such as the petitioner's rehabilitation, the nature of the offense, and any objections from the prosecution. If the court is satisfied that the petitioner meets the eligibility criteria and poses no risk to public safety, it may grant the petition to seal the juvenile records.

Notification to Law Enforcement Agencies

Once the court grants the petition, notification is sent to law enforcement agencies involved in the case. This ensures that the sealed records are updated and restricted from public access.

Under What Circumstances Can Access be Granted to Sealed Records?

There are specific entities that will have access to sealed records under certain circumstances. For example: 

Law Enforcement Oversight

Sealed records may still be accessible to law enforcement agencies for particular purposes. Law enforcement officials retain the authority to access sealed records in the course of an ongoing investigation or for law enforcement-related matters, ensuring public safety and security.

Government Agency Reviews

Certain government agencies may be granted access to sealed records in specific instances. This access is limited to agencies involved in licensing, certification, or employment background checks for positions requiring a significant degree of trust and responsibility. Occupations in law enforcement, child care, or public safety may necessitate such reviews.

Criminal Justice Proceedings

Sealed records might be admissible in criminal proceedings if deemed relevant to the case. For instance, in the context of new criminal charges against an individual with sealed records, the information may be considered during ongoing legal proceedings.

Sentencing or Probation Deliberations

Sealed records could be pertinent in sentencing or probation hearings, particularly if the individual is implicated in subsequent criminal activities. Judges may take into account the sealed information when determining suitable sentencing or probation conditions.

Security Clearance Investigations

Individuals undergoing background checks for security clearances may have their sealed records examined. This is particularly common in government or defense-related positions where a thorough background investigation is standard for the clearance process.

Child Custody or Family Court Proceedings

In specific family court matters like child custody disputes, sealed arrest or juvenile records may be considered if they are deemed relevant to the case. The court might evaluate the information to safeguard the welfare and safety of those involved.

Federal Background Checks

Federal agencies conducting background checks may have access to sealed records as part of a comprehensive review process, especially when individuals are seeking federal employment or positions requiring security clearance.

How Long Does the Record Sealing Process Take?

The duration of the record sealing process in California can vary based on several factors, and there is no fixed timeframe applicable to all cases. The timeline is influenced by the complexity of the case, the court's schedule, and various procedural steps.

Does California Impose a Time Limit for Sealing My Arrest Record?

There is no strict deadline for initiating the record sealing process in California. Once an individual meets the eligibility criteria and any required waiting periods, they can pursue record sealing at any time. It's essential to note that the absence of a strict deadline does not diminish the importance of promptly addressing the matter once eligibility criteria are met.

However, California law may impose waiting periods before individuals can initiate the process of sealing their arrest records. The duration of these waiting periods can vary based on the specific offense or charges involved. Some offenses may require a waiting period of one year, while others may have longer waiting periods.

Find a Record Sealing Attorney Near Me

Record sealing is not just a legal procedure, it's a pathway to renewed opportunities and a chance to move beyond the shadows of past mistakes. Whether you are seeking to seal your record or supporting a loved one on this journey, our dedicated team at Darwish Law in Santa Ana is ready to help you navigate this legal process with confidence. Call us today at 714-887-4810 to speak to a Santa Ana record-sealing attorney.