This page will give you an overview of the types of criminal record remedies available in California.
Last updated: November 2021
The laws related to record clearance are complicated and often require a lawyer. If you’re not sure if you are eligible, we encourage you to contact the public defender or legal aid in the county where the case occurred. For more eligibility information, visit the California Court’s self-help page. You can also read more about the effects of record clearance.
Many eligible arrests and convictions will soon be automatically cleared based on new laws. Check with the public defender or legal aid about how these new laws might affect you and what your best option for record clearance is.
Types of Record Clearance
Dismissals (PC 1203.4)
A dismissal is the most common form of record clearance in California. If you receive a dismissal, the final result of the charge as well as any associated arrests will be marked as “dismissed” and sealed on your record and should not show up on a commercial background check. If you apply for a government job or a job which requires a government-issued license, certificate, or permit, or a job which involves a security clearance, the conviction will be discovered. Law enforcement, the courts, and other actors will still see these records and they can be used for sentencing purposes in the future.
If you were sentenced to state prison prior to realignment, you generally are not eligible for dismissal. You can, however, reduce your conviction if it is eligible for Prop 47 or Prop 64 and then file for dismissal. If you served on a fire crew while sentenced to state prison, you may be eligible for a discretionary dismissal.
If you have a misdemeanor or felony conviction that required probation, you may be eligible to clear your conviction if:
- you have completed probation;
- you’re not currently serving a sentence or on probation for any other offense and;
- you have no pending charges.
If you are still on probation but have completed the terms of your sentence, you could request an early release from probation and then seek record clearance.
If you were not sentenced to probation, you may be able to petition for dismissal. Contact the public defender in the county of your conviction to see if you are eligible.
Certain convictions are ineligible for dismissal. Talk to a legal representative if you have questions about these specific conviction types.
To start the process of dismissal, we suggest that you contact the public defender or legal aid in the county where the conviction occurred.
Starting on July 1st, 2022, for convictions that have occurred after January 1st, 1973, if you successfully complete probation and meet the other requirements mentioned above, your conviction will be automatically expunged without any action on your part. To see if your conviction will be impacted, we suggest that you contact the public defender or legal aid in the county where the conviction occurred.
Sealing (PC 851)
If you have an arrest that did not result in a conviction, you may be eligible to seal the arrest record. You can seal both felony and misdemeanor arrest records. Sealing means that your arrest records will be hidden from public view. Many sealings are now automatic. To see if your arrest was automatically sealed, contact the public defender or legal aid in the county where the arrest occured.
Certain felony convictions can be reduced to misdemeanors. These are often called “wobblers.” Read more about which convictions are eligible for reduction and contact the Public Defender to see if they can assist you in seeking reduction.
Proposition 64 legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. As a result, past marijuana offenses are now eligible for reduction, dismissal, and/or sealing. Counties in California have to automatically clear these convictions. Contact the public defender or legal aid to see if your marijuana conviction has been automatically cleared.
Proposition 47 changed some low-level felony offenses into misdemeanors. If you have been convicted of one of these felony offenses, you may be able to reduce it to a misdemeanor. The following are some of the convictions that are eligibile under Prop 47:
- Simple drug possession
- Petty theft under $950
- Shoplifting under $950
- Forgery under $950
- Receipt of stolen property under $950
- Writing a bad check under $950
Read more about Prop 47. The deadline to submit Prop 47 petitions is November 4th, 2022. Contact the public defender or legal aid to start the process.
Other Types of Clearance
Even if you are not eligible for record clearance above, there may be other avenues for you to get post-conviction relief. If you have questions about your eligibility or what these other types of clearance might mean for you, we suggest that you contact the public defender or legal aid in the county where the conviction occured.
Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardons
If you are not eligible for expungement or sealing above, you might still be eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and/or a Pardon.
If you are looking for record clearance specifically for immigration purposes, you may be eligible to petition the court for relief in certain circumstances. To see if you are eligible for this relief, contact the public defender or a legal aid organization that specializes in immigration support.
Domestic Violence Victims (AB 124)
If you have an arrest or conviction that was a result of being a victim of intimate partner violence or sexual violence, you may be eligible to petition the court for re-sentencing or vacatur.
Human Trafficking Victims
If you have an arrest or conviction considered “non-violent” that was a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking, you can petition the court to vacate the arrest(s) and/or conviction(s).
Sex Offender Registry Relief
Starting in 2021, the Sex Offender Registry is moving to a tiered system. There are now three tiers for registration: ten years, twenty years, and lifetime. If a person meets the requirements for registration relief and has met the minimum registration period for their Tier, they will be able to petition the court for permission to stop registering based on the new system. To apply for this relief, contact the county public defender where you are currently registering.