How do I expunge my criminal record in California?

In California, expungement is a process available for many people who have been convicted of misdemeanor or felony offenses.  An expungement — also known as a dismissal — releases a person from the negative consequences of a criminal conviction for most purposes.

Expungement is available to Californians who have (1) successfully completed probation for a misdemeanor or felony conviction; and (2) either did not serve time in state prison, or who would have served time in county jail if the offense had been committed after realignment under Proposition 47.  Importantly, after the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, the California Department of Justice will automatically review and seal all past marijuana convictions that are no longer crimes under the law.  Anyone previously convicted of a marijuana offense that is not a crime under current law does not need to apply for expungement.

To obtain an expungement of a criminal record, a person must petition the court.  This is often done through an attorney, as certain procedures must be followed, such as providing the prosecutor with 15 days’ notice prior to an expungement hearing.   If the expungement is granted, the judge will sign an order setting aside the conviction and dismissing the case.

One of the primary benefits of expunging your record is the ability to answer “no” when asked if you have a criminal record.  The exceptions are if a person is applying to become a peace officer or to run for public office, is applying to work for the California Lottery Commission, or is applying for a state license.

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