Process for Expunging Criminal Adult Conviction Records California, Clearing rap sheet procedure

Despite common belief, arrest and criminal conviction records do not just disappear with the passage of time. What process you go through to clear your criminal record in California depends on whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony, if probation was granted, or if you were sentenced to state prison.

Depending on your conviction status, you may have the following options:

Your Circumstances

Relief Sought

How to do it

Arrested but not charged with any crime

Record of arrest sealed and destroyed

File a petition for PC 851.8 Finding of factual innocence

Convicted of a misdemeanor and still on probation

  1. Request early termination of Probation; and
  2. File a petition to have the conviction dismissed
  1. File a PC 1203.3 petition to have probation terminated early; and
  2. File a PC 1203.4 petition for a dismissal

Misdemeanor conviction and completed probation

File a petition to have conviction dismissed in court where the conviction occurred

File a PC 1203.4 petition for dismissal

Convicted of a misdemeanor but not placed on probation

File a petition to have the conviction dismissed

File a PC 1203.4a petition for dismissal

Convicted of a felony “wobbler” and are still on probation

  1. Request early release from probation;
  2. File a petition to have the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor; and
  3. File a motion to have the new misdemeanor dismissed
  1. File a PC 1203.3 petition to have probation terminated early;
  2. File a PC 17b petition to get the felony reduced to a misdemeanor; and
  3. File a PC 1203.4 petition for a dismissal

Felony conviction and done with probation and/or county jail time

File a petition to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor and file petition to have new misdemeanor dismissed

  1. File a PC 17b petition to get the felony reduced; and
  2. File a PC 1203.4 petition for a dismissal

Felony conviction, no probation, but sentenced to county jail

File a petition to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor and then file petition to have new misdemeanor dismissed

  1. File a PC 17b petition to get the felony reduced; and
  2. File a PC 1203.4 petition for a dismissal

Felony conviction and sentenced to state prison and have lived in same county for the past five years

File a petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon

File Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon.

Step One

To begin cleaning up your California adult criminal record (popularly known as your “rap sheet”), your first step is to obtain a copy of your criminal records information, as well as a fingerprint card. You may still have the information from the day of your most recent conviction; if so, that paperwork has most or all of the information you need. Contact your attorney or your parole or probation officer if you’ve lost this information, or to double-check that nothing on your record has changed. You can also get the information by calling the clerk of the Superior Court where you were convicted.

Another option is to contact the California Department of Justice and request a “Record Review Packet.” You’ll have to submit fingerprint images using their live scan form, pay a $25 processing fee, and write to:

California Department of Justice
P.O. Box 903417
Sacramento, CA 94203-4170
Attn: Records Review Unit

A Record Review Packet can also be requested by calling (916) 227-3849 or (916) 322-2209.  Select option 3, then 1, then 1, and leave your request for a packet.

Step Two

Once you get all your criminal records together, you can fill out the appropriate Petition form and mail it to the Superior Court for the county where you were convicted. (If you need help preparing the paperwork for clearing your record, call the county’s Public Defender’s office.)  If you need to expunge multiple convictions at the same time, or in different counties, you must file separate petitions.  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.

There are usually more fees for filing multiple petitions (including from the local Superior Court where you are requesting your expungement). Fees typically depend on whether the case is a felony or misdemeanor, but the fee can also be waived on proof of an inability to pay.  Currently, the law allows for a maximum fee of $120 per petition.  Be sure to check the Local Rules of the Superior Court for additional filing or photocopy requirements.

A court hearing will be scheduled and you (or your attorney) will have to appear.  Ideally, both you and your attorney will appear, especially for felony conviction cases.

If the Superior Court grants the petition, it will dismiss your conviction(s) and have your court record updated to show a “Dismissal”.

Petitions for dismissal of misdemeanors take about 4 to 6 weeks from the date filed to process. Petitions for felony dismissals typically will take longer; check with the clerk of the court for a time estimate.

If the Superior Court denies your petition, you may still be able to get your conviction(s) dismissed.  After you receive the order from the judge denying your dismissal, you can either go to, or call, the county clerk’s office to see if you can find out why the petition was denied and whether you can fix the problem and re-file.

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

Overview of California Criminal Expungements

Eligibility for Record Dismissal or Expungements 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

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