It is important to know that you can clear your name if you were mistakenly arrested or never charged for a crime in California. The following is mostly a reproduction of a CA DOJ form and should not be construed as legal advice, only information for your own personal use.
Penal Code section 851.81(a) PC provides in part: "In any case where a person has been arrested and no accusatory pleadings has been filed, the person arrested may petition the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the offense to destroy its record of the arrest. A copy of such petition shall be served upon the district attorney of the county having jurisdiction over the offense." This means that if you were never charged, and you are not likely to be, you can ask for your record to be sealed so employers and other people looking into your background will not see mistaken arrests and other interactions initiated erroneously by the police.
Info for the Petitioner
Penal Code section 851.8 PC provides that a person who has been arrested or detained and is determined to be factually innocent may petition the law enforcement agency or the court having jurisdiction over the matter to provide for the sealing and destruction of the record of that arrest. Petitions concerning arrests occurring on or after January 1, 1981, or accusatory pleadings filed on after January 1, 1981, may be filed for up to two years following the arrest filing date. Until January 1, 1983, petitions can be filed for arrests which occurred or accusatory pleadings which were filed up to five years prior to the statute's effective date of September 29, 1980.
File Directly with the Police Department that Arrested You and Serve a Copy on the DA
Penal Code section 851.81(a) PC provides in part: "In any case where a person has been arrested and no accusatory pleadings has been filed, the person arrested may petition the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the offense to destroy its record of the arrest. A copy of such petition shall be served upon the district attorney of the county having jurisdiction over the offense."
If Your Petition is Denied or You Get No Response
Penal Code section 851.8(b) PC provides in part: "If, after receipt by both the law enforcement agency and the district of a petition for relief under subdivision (a), the law enforcement agency and district attorney do not respond to the petition by accepting or denying such petition within 60 days after the running of the relevant statute of limitations or within 60 days after receipt of the petition in cases where the statute of limitations has previously lapsed, then the petition shall be deemed to be denied. In any case where the petition of an arrestee to the law enforcement agency to have an arrest record destroyed is denied, petition may be made to the municipal or justice court. A copy such petition shall be served on the district attorney of the county having jurisdiction over the offense at least 10 days prior to the hearing." In short, if your petition is denied or you get no response, you can take your request directly to the Court. You may wish to hire an attorney then.
Petitioning the Court
Remember, the arresting agency has 1 year plus 60 days from the time of arrest to reply, so you might be waiting awhile. But Penal Code section 851.8(c) provide in part: "In any case where a person has been arrested, and an accusatory pleading has been filed, but where no conviction has occurred, the defendant, may, at any time after dismissal of the action, petition the court which dismissed the action for a finding that the defendant is factually innocent of the charges for which the arrest was made. A copy of such petition shall be served on the district attorney of the county in which the accusatory pleading was filed at least 10 days prior to the hearing on the petitioner's factual innocence."
It is the responsibility of the petitioner to submit any declarations, affidavits, police reports or other evidence, which may exist to support the petition to appropriate the arresting agency or court and to serve a copy of the petition and supporting papers on the district attorney.
If your petition is granted, your records will not be automatically sealed and destroyed everywhere. The arresting agency must certainly comply, but to remove the record completely from the entire system, you need to contact the DOJ and CODIS system in Sacramento. You must then provide a copy of the granted petition and ask them to comply with it. Division of California Justice Information Services number is: (916) 227-3849. See the Form below for more information.
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