Record expungement is when all records of your arrest, charge, or conviction are eliminated. This has obvious benefits when applying to jobs, and can also help if you get in trouble with the law in the future. However, the procedure to expunge your record is tricky, which is why FindLaw has put together some information about the process for erasing your criminal history in Orange County.
Step One: Obtain Your Criminal Record
Before you can erase your record, you need to know what it contains. Try consulting the court papers you received at the time of your conviction or contacting the Superior Court from the county in which you were convicted to obtain an order of judgment. If all else fails, the California State Department of Justice, Criminal Record Review Unit has criminal records information for the entire state of California. You'll probably need to contact the Review Unit if your case is over ten years old. Just follow the instructions on their website, or contact them by telephone at (916) 227-3400 (also, ask about a fee waiver, although you'll need proof of low income).
Step Two: Gather the Necessary Information
You should be able to glean this information from your criminal record. Specifically, you need to know the:
Step Three: Determine Whether Your Record is Eligible for Dismissal
If you have served state prison time and are still on parole, you are ineligible to petition the court to dismiss your case. Also, certain crimes are not eligible for expungement, including certain vehicle code violations and sex offenses.
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor and have completed probation (or were never sentenced to probation), you are eligible for expungement. If you are still on misdemeanor probation, you must request to terminate your probation early under Penal Code section 1203.3(a). File a Motion to Terminate Probation by following this guide (PDF).
If you were convicted of a felony, you are ineligible for expungement unless you petition the court to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17(b). You use the same Petition for Dismissal form as below. Note that if you are on probation, you must file a Motion to Terminate Probation, as detailed above.
Step Four: File a Petition for Dismissal
California expungement law is governed by Penal Code section 1203.4 and 1203.4a (you'll have to scroll down). Section 1203.4 governs cases where probation was granted, while section 1203.4a governs cases where probation was denied. Either way, you'll need to file this Petition for Dismissal(PDF) form with the court. If you mail the Petition to the court, make sure you include this Proof of Service form (if you file it in person, the Proof of Service is unnecessary).
A petition under section 1203.4 costs $120, while a petition under section 1203.4a costs $60.
Step Five: If All Else Fails, Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation
If you are not eligible for expungement, don't despair! You may still receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation if you were convicted of a felony and committed to a state prison, institution, or agency (under certain circumstances). These certificates are governed by Penal Code section 4852.01.
This process is quite complicated, so it may be a good idea to contact counsel or the Orange County Public Defender. If you want to attempt it alone, follow this guide and use this form(PDF) to complete the process.
If you were convicted of possession of marijuana for personal use, your case is automatically erased from your record after two years under Health and Safety Code sections 11361.5 and 11361.7. However, note that convictions for cultivation, sales, or transportation don't qualify for automatic expungement.
Your juvenile convictions appear on your criminal record. However, when you turn 18, you are eligible to seal your juvenile record, but this is NOT automatic. Contact Orange County Juvenile Court Records to request the form for sealing your juvenile record. Once your records are sealed, no one can gain access to them and they will be completely destroyed after five years from the date of sealing.
The Orange County Public Defender's Office has a "New Leaf Program" designed to assists those who are seeking a fresh start. They may be able to help with improved opportunities for employment by sealing and expunging records, or helping you obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation when expungement is not an option.
Contact a qualified attorney.