How to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records in California
You are potentially eligible to destroy arrest records in a situation where you got arrested for a crime but never convicted. This could be because a DA never actually filed charges in what is called a DA reject, or it could be that the DA filed charges, but the case was later dismissed in court by the judge, the prosecutor, or dismissed because you went to trial and were found not guilty.
This means if you were convicted in court, either because you pled guilty, or no contest, or because you went to trial and were found guilty, then you do not qualify for this relief.
If you were arrested and you want to get the arrest records destroyed, you have to start by filing a petition with the police department that arrested you and ask them to destroy the arrest records.
If the police department refuses or they don’t respond within 60 days, then the next step is to file the petition in Superior Court.
Alternatively, if it was a situation where charges were filed in court, but you were never convicted, then you can bypass the police department and file your petition directly in Superior Court.
Once you file your petition in court, the judge will hold a hearing. This is called a hearing to determine factual innocence. Normally, at a criminal trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But in this situation, you have the burden of proving that you were innocent.
Such a case can last anywhere from an hour to several days. It is basically a mini-trial in court where evidence and witnesses are presented.
If you’re found factually innocent, the judge will order all of the records of the arrest sealed and destroyed. These are fingerprints, booking photos and police reports.
After this, you can legally and truthfully say in any application for a job, for a state license, for a scholarship, that you’ve never been arrested.
If you have you ever been arrested and you want the records destroyed, records are destroyed, you may need an experienced attorney who knows how to navigate you through this complicated process.