Do I Need an Attorney in California to File an Expungement or Petition to Seal My Criminal Records?

A criminal record can dramatically affect a number of personal matters: student loans, security clearances, insurance premiums, school admissions, credit, housing, certain professional licenses, citizenship, and perhaps most important of all—your reputation in the community.

California expungement does not completely erase your criminal record – your convictions still show up in criminal databases with the notation “DISMISSED.”  But expungement does mean that on an employment, housing, bank loan, credit, or college application, you are allowed to legally answer that you have not been convicted of any criminal event. In fact, under California law, an employer is prohibited from asking you about any convictions which have been dismissed (see California Labor Code Section 432.7).  

Having your conviction successfully dismissed, or filing a successful PFI (Petition for Factual Innocence) or COR (Certificate of Rehabilitation) involves several steps. You certainly have the right to represent yourself “pro se.” However, California expungement and record sealing can be a time-consuming and tedious process. Some very technical requirements must be met in order for you to be successful. For example, successfully having your Petition of Factual Innocence (PFI) granted entails proving to the judge that you were actually innocent. This means you will need to gather evidence. An experienced California criminal lawyercan help you avoid the many pitfalls, timing issues, exceptions, and other formal requirements. A minor mistake in preparing court documents or other paperwork can cost you precious time and lead to lengthy delays.

California law allows some individuals to effectively erase their criminal past, but the process can be a challenge. The reality is that the law is complicated, even confusing in some areas. Hiring a lawyer who specializes in these cases is worthwhile in order to take the burden off you. Attorneys are familiar with all of the requirements and procedures, they know the time frames, can handle all the court appearances, and can make sure your petition considered in the most favorable light by the court, rather than being thrown out on a technicality. The cost for legal representation on these matters starts for as little as a few hundred dollars – a small price to pay for a fresh start in life.

The bottom line is this: you have learned from your past mistakes and want to move forward. Use a qualified attorney who will get you there faster by consulting this comprehensive listing of criminal lawyers in California.

For more information on California criminal expungements, see the following articles:

Overview of California Criminal Expungements

Eligibility for Record Dismissal or Expungements in California

Process for Expunging Criminal Adult Records in California

Sealing and Destroying Adult Arrest Records in California: Factual Innocence Remedy

Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records in California

Expunging Adult Criminal Records in California

California Certificate of Rehabilitation