Cleaning Your Record

This guide only deals with criminal convictions obtained in California. Other states, the military, and the federal government may have similar procedures, but you must check with them to find out what is required. Try the Public Defender’s Office for the county you were convicted in, the Judge Advocate General’s Office (Navy), (Army), (Air Force) for military convictions, or the Federal Defender’s Office for federal convictions.

Important Notice: This guide is intended as an information tool to assist you with cleaning up your criminal record. We do not guarantee any results for a particular case, and the information in this guide is not intended as legal advice.

If the Public Defender’s Office represented you in your criminal case, it may be able to assist you. In some counties, the public defender may help you even if that office did not represent you in your case.

Click to find the public defender in your county. You can also get advice from a private lawyer. Click here for help finding a lawyer.

California Labor Code section 432.7 says that an employer cannot ask someone applying for a job for information about an arrest or detention that did not end in a conviction. Also, an employer cannot ask about a referral to or participation in any diversion program. An employer is also not supposed to look for any record of arrest (from any source) that did not end in a conviction. If this information comes to the employer’s attention anyway, the employer cannot use that record as a factor in hiring, promoting, or terminating that person. But this same code section says that the employer may ask an employee or someone applying for a job about an arrest for which he or she is out on bail or released on his or her own recognizance pending trial. A conviction, for purposes of this code section, includes pleas, verdicts, or findings of guilt. An employer also cannot ask someone applying for a job for information about a juvenile court case, even if a judge made a final decision against you in that case. If information about a juvenile case comes to the employer’s attention, the employer cannot use that record as a factor in hiring, training, promoting, or terminating that person.


In order to begin cleaning up your criminal record, you first need to know what is on your criminal record.

If you have more than 1 conviction, you need this information for EVERY conviction:

  1. What is your case number — sometimes called “docket number”?
  2. What was your date of conviction?
  3. What is the code name and section number you were convicted of violating? ? For example, Penal Code section 484; Health and Safety Code section 11377; Vehicle Code section 14601(a).
  4. Was there a verdict or did you enter a plea? If you entered a plea, was it “guilty” or “no contest” (also called “nolo contendere”)?

Depending on what you may want to ask the court to do, you may also need the following information:

  1. Were you ordered to serve any time on probation (either formal or informal probation,)? If so, for how long?
  2. Were you ordered to make any payments, such as restitution, as a part of your probation?
  3. Did you comply with all of the terms and conditions of probation?
  4. If you were sentenced to state prison, which one?
  5. If you were sentenced to state prison, on what date were you released?
  6. If you were released on parole, on what date did your parole end?

The information on your criminal record information can be obtained from a variety of sources, like:

  1. California State Dept. of Justice, Criminal Record Review Unit. They will have your criminal record information for the entire state of California. Make sure you follow the directions for requesting your criminal record carefully. There is a $25 fee, but you may qualify for a fee waiver. You must sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury, and you must provide proof of your income. It may take several weeks for your record to arrive in the mail.

  2. The court papers you received at the time you were convicted.

  3. The superior court where you were convicted. Keep in mind that they will only have information for convictions from that county and not other counties.

  4. Your lawyer, parole officer, or probation officer.

Sealing records

You may request a court to seal your arrest and criminal records. If a judge determines that you have met the requirements, the records will be sealed and not available to the public. There are certain limitations, depending on what type of remedy or end result you are asking for.

Your situation

Remedy

How to do it

You were arrested and  no formal court case has been filed accusing you of a crime.

Request arrest records in the case to be sealed and destroyed.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 851.8 to destroy arrest records with the law enforcement agency. If law enforcement does not respond within 60 days, your request is deemed denied. If that happens, file a petition with the court. If the court finds you were factually innocent of the charges for which the arrest was made, the court will order your records sealed and destroyed.

You were arrested and a case against you was filed but dismissed.

Request arrest records in the case to be sealed and destroyed.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 851.8 with the court. If the court finds you were factually innocent of the charges for which the arrest was made, the court will order your records sealed and destroyed.

You were acquitted at trial.

Request records in the case to be sealed, including any record of your arrest or detention.

File a written or oral motion, with notice to all parties, under Pen. Code, § 851.85. If the court finds you were factually innocent of the charges, the court will order your records sealed.

Your conviction was set aside based upon a determination that you are factually innocent.

Request records in the case to be sealed, including any record of your arrest or detention.

File a written or oral motion, with notice to all parties, under Pen. Code, § 851.86.

You successfully complete a pre-filing diversion program.

Request records in the case to be sealed, including any record of your arrest or detention.

Two years after successful completion of the diversion program, file a petition under Pen. Code, § 851.87 with the court.

You successfully complete a drug diversion program under Pen. Code §§ 1000, 1000.5, or 1000.8.

Request records in the case to be sealed, including any record of your arrest or detention.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 851.90 with the court.

You were under 18 at the time you committed a misdemeanor, and are eligible or have previously received relief under Penal Code §§ 1203.4 or 1203.4a.

Request records in the case to be sealed, including any record of your arrest or detention.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.45 with the court.

Your petition under Welfare and Institutions Code § 781 is granted for violations of Pen. Code §§ 647(b) and/or 653.22.

Request all records in the case to be sealed, including any record of your arrest or detention.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.47 with the court.

You are in the Department of Justice’s DNA and Forensic Identification Database but have no qualifying offense or pending charge justifying you being included in the database.

Request that the California Department of Justice destroy your DNA sample and/or specimen and expunge (delete) your DNA database profile.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 299 for expungement.

Petition: Form CR-185

Order: Form CR-186

Dismissals - misdemeanors

Your situation

Remedy

How to do it

You were convicted of a misdemeanor and are still on probation.

Request early release from probation and file a petition to have the conviction dismissed.

File a petition under Penal Code section 1203.3 to have probation terminated early, and a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.4 for dismissal.

Petition: Form CR-180

Order: Form CR-181

You were convicted of a misdemeanor and have completed probation.

Request a dismissal of the conviction.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.4 for dismissal.

Petition: Form CR-180

Order: Form CR-181

You were convicted of a misdemeanor or infraction and were never given  probation.

Request a dismissal of the conviction.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.4a for dismissal.

Petition: Form CR-180

Order: Form CR-181

Dismissals – felonies

As referred to below, “wobblers” are offenses that can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. You can tell whether a felony is a “wobbler” by going to the code section and looking at the possible sentence options. If the sentence for the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison or in a county jail, the offense is a wobbler. Similarly, if the sentence for the offense is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in a county jail, the offense is a wobbler.

You were convicted of a felony wobbler and are still on probation.

Request early release from probation and file a petition to have the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor and dismissed.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.3  to have probation terminated early. File a petition under Pen. Code, § 17(b) to get a felony reduced, and a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.4 for dismissal.

Petition: Form CR-180

Order: Form CR-181

You were convicted of a felony wobbler and are done with probation and/or county jail time.

File a petition to have the conviction reduced and dismissed.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 17(b) to get a felony reduced, and a petition under  Pen. Code, § 1203.4 for dismissal.

Petition: Form CR-180

Order: Form CR-181

You were convicted of a felony and sentenced to county jail under Pen. Code, § 1170(h)(5).

File a petition to have the conviction dismissed.

File a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.41 for dismissal.

Petition: Form CR-180

Order: Form CR-181

You were convicted of a felony and were sentenced to state prison or put under the authority of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

File a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon.

See the Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon section for more information.

What is a dismissal?

If you were convicted of an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony and were NOT sentenced to state prison or put under the authority of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, you can petition for a dismissal (people often use the term “expungement” when talking about a “dismissal.”). You are eligible to request a dismissal if you were given county jail time (including jail time for a felony offense), probation, a fine, or a combination of those three types of punishment rather than being sentenced to state prison. If you make a formal request to the court (petition) for a dismissal, the court will make a decision on your request and may withdraw your guilty or no contest (nolo contendere) plea (or the guilty verdict if you went to trial), and enter a not guilty plea. Then the court will set aside and dismiss the conviction. From that point forward, you are no longer considered to be “convicted” of the offense. Your record will be changed to show a dismissal rather than a conviction.

When are you eligible for a dismissal?

You are eligible for dismissal of a misdemeanor conviction, and the court will dismiss your conviction upon your request, if:

  • You received probation for that conviction and:
  1. You successfully completed probation or obtained early release;
  2. You also have paid all restitution and other payments that were ordered as a term of probation;
  3. You are not currently serving another sentence or on probation for another offense; AND
  4. You are not currently charged with another offense.

  • You never received probation and:
  1. Your conviction was a misdemeanor or an infraction;
  2. It has been at least 1 year since the date you were convicted;
  3. You have complied fully with the sentence of the court;
  4. You are not currently serving another sentence;
  5. You are not currently charged with another offense; AND
  6. You have obeyed the law and lived an honest and upright life since the time of your conviction.

You are eligible for a dismissal and the court has the discretion (choice) to grant you that dismissal if:

  • You received probation but you did not get an early release, did not fulfill all the conditions of probation, or were convicted of any offense listed in Vehicle Code section 12810(a) to (e) BUT:
  1. You have paid all restitution and other payments that were ordered as a term of probation;
    AND
  2. You are not currently charged with, on probation for, or serving a sentence for any other offense.

You are eligible for a dismissal and the court has the discretion (choice) to grant you that dismissal if were convicted of a misdemeanor under Pen. Code, § 647(b) (solicitation/prostitution) and:

  1. You were placed on probation and you have completed probation.
  2. You can show by clear and convincing evidence that your conviction was the result of your being a victim of human trafficking.

You are eligible for a dismissal and the court has the discretion (choice) to grant you that dismissal if you were sentenced to county jail on a felony and:

  1. You were placed on “mandatory supervision” by the Probation department for a portion of your sentence, and more than a year has passed since you completed your sentence.

  2. You were NOT placed on “mandatory supervision” for a portion of your sentence and at least two years have passed since you completed your sentence.

  3. You are not currently charged with, on probation for, or serving a sentence for any other offense.

  4. The court finds that it is in the interests of justice.

You are eligible for a dismissal and the court has the discretion (choice) to grant you that dismissal if:

  1. You were a member of the United States military suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of your service,
  2. You were granted probation and are in substantial compliance with the conditions of probation.
  3. You have successfully participated in court-ordered treatment and services to address the sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from military service;
  4. You are not a danger to the health or safety of others;
  5. You have shown that the court-ordered education, treatment, or rehabilitation has been positive for you; and
  6. The court finds that it is in the interests of justice.

You are eligible for a dismissal and the court has the discretion (choice) to grant you that dismissal if:

  1. You were granted deferred entry of judgment;
  2. Your criminal charges were dismissed under Penal Code section 1000.3.
  3. There are court records showing how the case was resolved or you state under oath that the charges were dismissed after you completed the requirements for deferred entry of judgment.

In all of these cases where the court has discretion (choice), it is up to the court to decide if your conviction should be dismissed, so make sure to give as much helpful information as possible to convince the court that granting you a dismissal is in the interests of justice.

Convictions not eligible for dismissal

If you were convicted of any of the following offenses, you are not eligible for a dismissal:

Diversion and deferred entry of judgment

Courts may offer diversion or deferred entry of judgment programs.

If you successfully complete a prefiling diversion program, you may petition the court to seal the records of the arresting agency and related court files, two years after successful completion of the program. The Department of Justice shall maintain arrest records it has received and disclose them in specified instances. (Penal Code section 851.87.)

If you successfully complete a pretrial diversion program, the criminal charges shall be dismissed at the end of the period of diversion. (Penal Code section 1001.7.) The arrest upon which the diversion was based shall be deemed to have never occurred, and you may indicate that you have never been arrested or diverted, except when applying to be a peace officer. The Department of Justice may disclose the arrest in response to any peace officer application. (Penal Code section 1001.9.)

If you perform satisfactorily during the period of a deferred entry of judgment under Penal Code section 1000, the criminal charge shall be dismissed. (Penal Code section 1000.3, section 1203.43.) The arrest upon which the deferred entry of judgment was based shall be deemed to have never occurred, and you may indicate that you have never been arrested or diverted, except when applying to be a peace officer. The Department of Justice may disclose the arrest in response to any peace officer application. (Penal Code section 1000.4.) You may also petition the court to seal the records of the arresting agency and related court files. The Department of Justice shall maintain arrest records it has received and disclose them in specified instances. (Penal Code section 851.90.)

If you perform satisfactorily during the period of a preguilty plea drug court program, the arrest upon which the diversion was based shall be deemed to have never occurred, and you may indicate that you have never been arrested or diverted, except when applying to be a peace officer. The Department of Justice may disclose the arrest in response to any peace officer application. (Penal Code section 1000.4, 1000.5.) You may also petition the court to seal the records of the arresting agency and related court files. The Department of Justice shall maintain arrest records it has received and disclose them in specified instances. (Penal Code section 851.90.)

If you successfully complete a deferred entry of judgment program under Penal Code section 1008, the criminal charge will be dismissed. (Penal Code section 1000.9.) The provisions of Penal Code section 1203.4 will apply. You may also petition the court to seal the records of the arresting agency and related court files. The Department of Justice shall maintain arrest records it has received and disclose them in specified instances. (Penal Code section 851.90.)

Automatic destruction of marijuana-related arrest and conviction records

Although personal use of marijuana up to 28.5 grams may be legal for adults, other marijuana related activities remain illegal, even after Proposition 64. If you were convicted of marijuana ‘possession’ or ‘unlawful transportation, importation, sale, or gift’ (under Health and Safety Code sections 11357 and 11360) you do not necessarily need to get a dismissal. These arrest and conviction records must automatically be destroyed and purged from the statewide criminal databases two years after the conviction. But, if you were in jail due to that conviction, your records will not be destroyed until two years after you are released.

Dismissal or Redesignation of eligible marijuana-related convictions (If you have completed your sentence)

 If you were convicted of:

prior to November 9, 2016 and have completed your sentence, you may apply to the court to have your conviction dismissed or redesignated under the more lenient sentencing provisions of Proposition 64. You may apply with the Petition/Application (Form CR-400) and  the Proof of Service for Petition/Application (Form CR-401).

If your case is dismissed, you may also apply to have your record sealed.

Dismissal or Resentencing of eligible marijuana-related convictions (If you are currently serving your sentence)

 If you were convicted of:

prior to November 9, 2016 and are currently serving your sentence, you may petition the court to have your conviction dismissed or resentenced under the more lenient sentencing provisions of Proposition 64. You may apply with the Petition/Application (Form CR-400) and the Proof of Service for Petition/Application (Form CR-401).

If your case is dismissed, you may also apply to have your record sealed

Sealing of eligible marijuana-related convictions

If your conviction was dismissed under Proposition 64 after you completed your sentence, you may ask the court to seal your records. You may apply to have your records sealed with the Petition/Application (Form CR-400) and the Proof of Service for Petition/Application (Form CR-401).

Resentencing of eligible possessory drug convictions and thefts of under $950

If you were convicted of specified possessory drug offenses or theft of property valued under $950, prior to November 4, 2014 and are currently serving your sentence, you may petition the court to have your conviction resentenced under the more lenient sentencing provisions of Proposition 47. Courts must recall and resentence your convictions unless the judge in his/her discretion, determines that your resentencing would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. The deadline for filing these petitions is November 4, 2022.

Reducing eligible possessory drug convictions and thefts of under $950 from felonies to misdemeanors

If you were convicted of specified possessory drug offenses or theft of property valued under $950, prior to November 4, 2014 and have completed your sentence, you may petition the court to have your felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor under the more lenient sentencing provisions of Proposition 47. If the court determines that your conviction is eligible for reduction, the judge must reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor. The deadline for filing these petitions is November 4, 2022.

Juvenile records

See Sealing Juvenile Records for more information.

Relief for victims of human trafficking

Under Penal Code section 1203.49, if you were convicted for prostitution or solicitation under Penal Code 647(b) and completed probation, you may petition the court for relief if you establish by clear and convincing evidence that the conviction was the result of your status as a victim of human trafficking. The court may issue an order for dismissal as described in Penal Code section 1203.4.

Under Penal Code section 236.14, if you were arrested or convicted of a nonviolent offense committed while you were a victim of human trafficking, including, but not limited to, prostitution as described in subdivision (b) of Section 647, you may petition the court for vacatur relief of your convictions and arrests. You must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the arrest or conviction was the direct result of being a victim of human trafficking. If the court grants relief, the arrest and any adjudications or convictions are deemed not to have occurred, and all records are sealed and destroyed.

Once all your convictions have been dismissed, this is what you can expect:

  1. Applying for private employment: Under most circumstances, private employers cannot ask you about any convictions dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4. So when applying for a job in the private sector, you generally do not have to disclose a conviction if it was dismissed or expunged. But it is a good idea to read Penal Code section 1203.4, or California Code of Regulations section 11017.1 (operative July 1, 2017), or to talk to the public defender in your county if you have questions about your rights and obligations regarding past convictions when applying for a job. 
  1. Applying for government employment or a government license: For questions by government employers or on government licensing applications, if you are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you MUST respond with “YES—CONVICTION DISMISSED.” In California, government employers and licensing agencies (except for police agencies and concessionaire licensing boards) will treat you the same as if you had never been convicted of any crime.
  1. You will not be allowed to own or possess a firearm until you would otherwise be able to do so.
  1. Your dismissed convictions can still be used to increase your punishment in future criminal cases.
  1. Your prior convictions can still affect your driving privileges.
  1. If you have been required to register as a sex offender as a result of a conviction, you have to make a different motion to the court in order to be relieved of this requirement. A dismissal will not relieve you of your duty to register as a sex offender. Your status as a registered sex offender will continue to be available to the public on the Internet under Megan’s Law.
  1. If your conviction prohibited you from holding public office, you still cannot hold public office after that conviction is dismissed.

Complete the petition

If you are filing a petition for reducing a felony or a petition for early release from probation or for a dismissal, you will need to call the clerk of the superior court for the county where you were convicted and ask them for the following information:

  1. Have them send you as many copies of their form (if they have one) as you have convictions in that county.
  2. If you are filing a petition under Penal Code sections 17(b), 17(d)(2), 1203.4, 1203.41, 1203.43, and 1203.49, you can use the Petition for Dismissal (Form CR-180).
  3. Ask if you need to submit additional photocopies of the petition and, if so, how many.
  4. Ask if their local rules of court require you to serve copies of your petition on the district attorney or probation department.
  5. Ask what the correct mailing address is for filing by mail.

Remember, you can only dismiss 1 conviction at a time. This means you must fill out a separate petition for each conviction that you want to dismiss, but you can file them all at the same time. If you are currently on probation, you will need to deal with that conviction first; then you can proceed with the others.

File your petition

If you are filing a petition for reducing a felony or a petition for early release from probation or a dismissal, you will need to mail (or deliver in person) your filing materials to the clerk of the superior court for the county where you were convicted.

Be sure to include any supportive materials such as letters of support, school diplomas or transcripts, and if applying for early release from probation, a letter to the judge explaining why you feel you should be released from probation early. At the time you file your papers, the clerk will set a hearing date.

If required in your county, be sure to serve the district attorney or probation department.

You may be required to attend the hearing. If you are required to attend the hearing, BE SURE TO ATTEND. Be on time and dress appropriate for court. If your petition is granted, make sure to put the order in a safe place for your records.

The court cannot charge you a fee to file your petition, but the court may order you to reimburse the court, city, and county up to $150 each after the court decides your petition, whether or not your petition was granted. But before you are ordered to pay, the court must decide if you are able to pay all or a part of the costs of your petition without undue hardship.

If your petition is denied

Do NOT despair! You may still be able to get your convictions dismissed. After you receive the order from the judge denying your dismissal, you can either go to, or call, the clerk at the courthouse to see if you can find out why the petition was denied and whether you can fix the problem and re-file.

When you speak with the clerk, be respectful and take notes. Follow the instructions of the clerk and be sure to thank the clerk for his or her help.

What is a certificate of rehabilitation?

A certificate of rehabilitation is a court order declaring that you have been rehabilitated after a California state criminal conviction. It also recommends that the governor grant you a full pardon. (Penal Code section 4852.13(a).) If you are granted a certificate of rehabilitation, the court will send certified copies to the governor. This will serve as an application for a pardon by the governor. A pardon by the governor gives you all the civil and political rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, and, in some cases, the right to own and keep a legal firearm. (Penal Code sections 4852.17, 4853 – 4854.) A certificate of rehabilitation and Governor’s pardon is only available to California residents.

Who is eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation?

  1. A person convicted of a felony who is committed to state prison or under the authority of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; or
  2. A person convicted of a felony, or a person convicted of a misdemeanor violation of any sex offense specified in Penal Code section 290, which has been dismissed pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4 as long as the petitioner has not been incarcerated since the dismissal, is not on probation for the commission of any felony, and the petitioner presents satisfactory evidence of five years’ residence in California prior to filing the petition.

To file a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation, you must reside for five years in California, plus wait additional time depending on your conviction. (Penal Code section 4852.03.) This period of rehabilitation starts upon your discharge from custody or your release from parole, postrelease supervision, mandatory supervision, or probation, whichever is sooner.

Who is ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation?

You are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation if any of the following applies:

  • You are on mandatory life parole.
  • You are a person with a death sentence.
  • You are in the military.
  • You are convicted of a violation of Penal Code section 269, 286(c), 288, 288a(c), 288.5, 288.7, or 289(j), except if there are extraordinary circumstances.
  • You are not a California resident.

How can I get a certificate of rehabilitation?

If you are eligible, you may file a petition with the superior court where you reside. This is a lengthy process and may involve a hearing. You have the right to have the public defender in your county help you. If there is no public defender in your county, you may still have the right to get help, either from the county’s adult probation officer or, if the court thinks you need legal representation, from a court-appointed lawyer. (Penal Code section 4852.08.)

Direct Pardon

If you are ineligible to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation, you may apply to the governor for a direct pardon.

How to Apply for a Pardon, Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.:

You may also request an application in writing at the following address:

Governor's Office
State Capitol
Attention: Legal Affairs
Sacramento, CA 95814

More information

Pardons and Commutations, Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

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