Reveal Law

Moving Forward: The Path to Freedom from a Criminal Record


Expungement and Sealing of Records: Understanding the Process and ImplicationsIn today’s world, where personal information is readily accessible, having a criminal record can have lasting consequences. Fortunately, the legal system provides a way for individuals to move on from their past mistakes through expungement and sealing of records.

In this article, we will delve into the definition, purpose, eligibility, and procedures for expungement and sealing. We will also explore the variations in state laws and the implications and limitations of these processes.

Expungement and Sealing of Records

Definition and Purpose of Expungement/Sealing

Expungement and sealing are legal processes that aim to remove or restrict public access to criminal records. Expungement refers to the complete erasure of records, while sealing involves restricting access to certain authorities.

The primary purpose of these mechanisms is to give individuals a fresh start by allowing them to cast aside the stigma of past convictions. Eligibility and Procedures for Expungement/Sealing

Expungement and sealing eligibility criteria vary among jurisdictions, but common factors include the nature of the offense, completion of probation or sentence, and the absence of subsequent convictions.

The specific procedures also vary, but generally involve filing a petition, paying a fee, gathering necessary documentation, and attending a court hearing. Hiring a lawyer experienced in expungement cases can be beneficial to navigate the complex process.

State Laws and Variations

State Laws Regarding Expungement/Sealing

Each state has its own set of laws governing the expungement and sealing of criminal records. Some states have more liberal laws that allow for the expungement of a wider range of offenses, including felonies, while others only allow certain misdemeanors to be expunged.

Consulting the specific statutes of the state in question is crucial to determine the eligibility requirements and processes. Implications and Limitations of Expungement/Sealing

While expungement and sealing of records offer individuals a chance at a fresh start, limitations do exist.

For instance, some states do not allow expunged records to be sealed if they are related to certain offenses, such as crimes against children or sexual offenses. Additionally, private organizations and law enforcement agencies may retain access to sealed or expunged records.

It is also important to note that expunged records may still impact certain professions, as licensing boards and employers may have access to them. Implications can also arise concerning social media and press.

Expunged or sealed records can still be found on the internet, exacerbating the potential harm caused by past actions. It is crucial for individuals to be aware of this possibility and take necessary measures to manage their online presence.


By understanding the definition, purpose, eligibility, and procedures of expungement and sealing, individuals can take the necessary steps to move forward from their past mistakes and embrace a brighter future. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the variations in state laws and be aware of the potential implications and limitations that accompany these processes.

Empowered with this knowledge, individuals can make informed decisions and work towards rebuilding their lives.

California Law on Expungement and Record Sealing

Expungement under Penal Code 1203.4 PC

California law provides individuals with the opportunity to expunge their criminal records under Penal Code 1203.4 PC. Expungement allows individuals to have their prior convictions dismissed, offering a fresh start with a clean record.

However, it is important to note that expungement does not completely erase the conviction; instead, it changes the plea from “guilty” or “no contest” to “not guilty” and dismisses the case. To be eligible for expungement in California, the individual must have successfully completed probation, paid all fines and restitution, and not currently be facing any criminal charges.

Additionally, certain offenses, such as serious sex offenses, cannot be expunged. Expungement is available for both misdemeanor and felony convictions, though the requirements vary.

The process of filing for expungement in California involves filing a petition with the court that handled the case. The individual must provide evidence of completed probation and fulfill any other requirements outlined by the court, such as attending rehabilitation programs or community service.

It is advisable to consult with an experienced attorney to ensure all necessary documentation is submitted accurately and to increase the chances of a successful expungement.

Record Sealing under Senate Bill 383

In addition to expungement, California also offers the option of record sealing under Senate Bill 383. This law allows individuals to seal specific arrest records that did not result in convictions.

Sealing these records restricts access to law enforcement agencies and public view, providing individuals with greater privacy and protection against the potential negative consequences of having an arrest record. To be eligible for record sealing under Senate Bill 383, the individual must not have been convicted of the offense they were arrested for, and the statute of limitations for filing charges must have expired.

Sealing is available for both misdemeanors and felonies, except for certain specified offenses, such as serious violent crimes, sexual offenses, and certain vehicle code violations. The process of record sealing in California involves filing a petition with the court that has jurisdiction over the case.

This petition should include all relevant information about the arrest and supporting documentation, such as proof of completion of diversion programs or rehabilitation. It is advisable to seek legal counsel to navigate the complex procedures and ensure the accurate completion and submission of the necessary documents.

Un-Expungeable Crimes

Felony Offenses That Cannot be Expunged

While California law provides opportunities for expungement, certain felony offenses are considered un-expungeable. Violent crimes, such as murder, rape, and kidnapping, fall under this category.

Other serious offenses, like child abuse or endangerment and certain sex crimes involving minors, are also not eligible for expungement. These restrictions are in place to prioritize public safety and protect vulnerable individuals.

It is important to note that even if an offense is not eligible for expungement, individuals may still explore other legal options, such as felony reduction or certificate of rehabilitation, depending on the circumstances of their case. Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney is crucial to understanding the available options and making informed decisions.

Restrictions on Expungement/Sealing for Serious Sex Offenses

In cases involving serious sex offenses, California law imposes stricter restrictions on expungement and sealing of records. For individuals convicted of certain sex crimes, such as rape or child molestation, expungement is generally not available.

Record sealing is also limited for offenses involving child pornography or lewd acts with a child. The severity of these offenses necessitates a cautious approach to ensure the safety and protection of potential victims.

Additionally, under California law, individuals convicted of sex offenses are required to register as sex offenders. Even if a record is expunged or sealed, these individuals are still required to fulfill their registration obligations, including providing updates on their residential addresses.

Failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements can result in serious legal consequences. Conclusion:

Understanding California law regarding expungement and record sealing provides individuals with the necessary knowledge to pursue a fresh start and protect their privacy.

Expungement and record sealing offer opportunities for individuals to move forward from their past mistakes and build better futures. However, it is important to be aware of the limitations and exceptions, particularly for felony offenses and serious sex crimes.

Consulting with an experienced attorney is essential to navigate the process, ensure eligibility, and increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Sealing of Arrest Records and Factual Innocence

Sealing and Destroying Arrest Records

In addition to expungement and record sealing, another important aspect of criminal record management is the sealing and destruction of arrest records. Under certain circumstances, individuals who were arrested but not convicted of a crime may be eligible to have their arrest records sealed or even destroyed, ensuring that the incident does not continue to affect their lives.

Sealing an arrest record involves restricting public access to the information contained within the record, providing individuals with privacy and protection against potential negative consequences. On the other hand, destroying an arrest record involves the complete elimination of all records related to the arrest, effectively erasing the incident from the individual’s record.

The eligibility criteria and procedures for sealing or destroying arrest records vary among jurisdictions. In some cases, individuals may be eligible for automatic sealing or destruction of their arrest records if they were never charged, if the charges were dismissed, or if they were acquitted.

In other instances, individuals may need to file a petition with the court and provide evidence of their eligibility, such as court documents indicating the disposition of the case. It is important to note that not all states provide the option of sealing or destroying arrest records.

Therefore, individuals should consult the laws of their specific jurisdiction or seek legal advice to determine the available options for managing their arrest records.

Declaration of Factual Innocence for Sealing Records

In some cases, individuals who were wrongfully arrested or charged with a crime may seek a declaration of factual innocence. This declaration serves as an official finding by the court that the individual is innocent of the charges brought against them, clearing their name and allowing for the sealing of their records.

To obtain a declaration of factual innocence, the individual must provide convincing evidence that they did not commit the offense. This can include alibi evidence, witness statements, surveillance footage, or any other evidence that supports their innocence.

It is crucial to gather all relevant documentation and present a strong case to the court. The process for obtaining a declaration of factual innocence varies among jurisdictions but generally involves filing a motion with the court.

The motion should include a detailed explanation of the reasons why the individual believes they are factually innocent, along with supporting evidence. A hearing may be scheduled where both the prosecution and the defense can present their arguments and evidence to the court.

If the court grants the declaration of factual innocence, it usually results in the sealing of the arrest and court records related to the incident. This provides individuals with the opportunity to move on from the wrongful arrest or charges without the record of the incident following them.

It is important to note that obtaining a declaration of factual innocence can be a complex process, and the burden of proof lies with the individual seeking the declaration. It is advisable to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide and represent them throughout the proceedings to ensure the best possible outcome.


The sealing and destruction of arrest records, as well as the declaration of factual innocence, are essential processes for individuals who have been wrongfully arrested or charged with a crime. These mechanisms provide opportunities for individuals to clear their names, protect their privacy, and move on from unjust legal incidents.

While the eligibility criteria and procedures for sealing records and obtaining declarations of factual innocence may vary among jurisdictions, seeking legal advice and assistance is crucial to navigating the complex process effectively.

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