Criminal law attorneyExpungementRecord ClearingSealing Arrest Records

What Is The Difference Between Expungement And Sealing Records?

By November 25, 2020 January 12th, 2021 No Comments

Many people equate expunging a criminal record with sealing a criminal record. Often, clients ask about these processes and believe that both are necessary to achieve their needs and goals. However, sealing and destroying arrest records is an entirely different procedure from expunging records of criminal convictions under California Penal Code § 1203.4. The experienced post-conviction attorneys at the Dolan Law offices can provide the advice necessary for any Californian to make the decision that is most beneficial as they move forward.

SB 393, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 11, 2017, and going into effect on January 1, 2018, gives Californian citizens the right to have their arrest records sealed under certain circumstances. SB 393 is now codified in California Penal Code § 851.87 PC, which enables individuals to have their arrest record sealed as a matter of right when:

  • No criminal charges were ever filed, or they were filed but later dismissed,
  • The defendant was found “not guilty” in a trial by jury,
  • The defendant’s conviction was overturned or vacated on appeal, or
  • The defendant completed a pretrial diversion or pre-sentencing program.

Once an arrest record is sealed under PC 851.87, it is inaccessible to members of the public. The file consisting of the arrest record, police investigation reports, photographs, fingerprints, and court records will be unavailable except for limited use by the State of California or criminal justice agencies.

An exception to sealing an arrest record as a matter of right is when the person arrested has a history of arrests and/or convictions for domestic violence, elder abuse, or child abuse. However, even these defendants may have an arrest sealed if a judge determines that sealing the record would serve the interests of justice.

In contrast to sealing an arrest record, California Penal Code § 1203.4 PC authorizes a form of post-conviction relief known as an “expungement” that releases an individual from “all penalties and disabilities” arising out of a conviction. This release dismisses an offense and allows an individual to gain a fresh start in his or her life.

In addition to helping a person avoid certain immigration consequences that would lead to deportation, an expungement allows a person to realize the following benefits:

  • An employer may not discriminate against a job applicant because of an expunged conviction;
  • A state professional license may be obtained;
  • An expunged conviction may not be used to impeach the individual’s credibility as a witness in court unless the individual is also the defendant.

A petition for expungement under California Penal Code § 1203.4 PC may be brought at the conclusion of probation. The petition requests the court to allow the defendant to withdraw any plea of guilty or no contest, to reenter a plea of not guilty, and to dismiss the case. If the petition for expungement is granted, the individual is released from the negative consequences of the conviction, as listed above.

For over forty years, and after the passing of Prop 47 by California voters, the Dolan Law Offices have provided post-conviction services including expungements to help the residents of the Coachella Valley clear their criminal records to restore their future as productive, law-abiding members of the community. There are not many attorneys more experienced in helping California residents clear their criminal records than John Patrick Dolan. Call the Dolan Law Offices today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.

What Is The Difference Between Expungement And Sealing Records?