Until recently, if you were arrested in California but never charged with a crime, the arrest stayed on your record unless you acted to have that record sealed. If you need to have any record of an arrest or a conviction sealed in this state, criminal lawyers in Long Beach are available to help.
In the past, to seal an arrest record in California, you had to prove that you were “factually innocent” and that the police did not have a reasonable cause to believe that you committed a crime when they arrested you. Even with the best attorney, that was an almost impossible task.
What exactly does it mean to have a record sealed? What is required now – in 2019 – to have an arrest record sealed in California? What about a conviction record? And is having a record sealed worth the effort that it will take? Keep reading, as those questions are about to be answered.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN AN ARREST STAYS ON YOUR RECORD?
In any location as heavily populated as southern California, law enforcement officers will inevitably end up arresting a number of people who are innocent of any crime. More than one million arrests were made by California police officers in 2017.
However, out of more than 300,000 felony arrests made in California that year, only 66 percent – less than two-thirds of those felony arrests – actually led to a criminal conviction.
When an arrest remains on your record – even if you were never subsequently charged with or convicted of any crime – that arrest record can result in the loss of important opportunities when a school, a landlord, or an employer conducts a background check on you.
WHAT IS THE CALIFORNIA “CARE” ACT?
However, in 2018, a law called the “CARE” Act (the Consumer Arrest Record Equity Act) took effect in California and established a more reasonable process for sealing arrest records when an arrest is not followed by a conviction. These include situations where someone was arrested, but:
- No charges were filed by the District Attorney’s office.
- Charges were filed, but the case was dismissed.
- A trial was conducted, and a not guilty verdict was returned.
- The defendant successfully completed a pretrial diversion or pre-sentencing program.
- A conviction was returned but was later reversed or vacated on appeal.
If you were arrested for a crime in the state of California, but you were not convicted – for any of the reasons listed above – or if your conviction was reversed or vacated on appeal, you may qualify to have the arrest record sealed under the CARE Act.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE AN ARREST RECORD SEALED?
You no longer have to prove your “factual innocence” to have a California arrest record sealed. You simply have to demonstrate that having the arrest record sealed is a “matter of right” or that having it sealed would “serve the interests of justice.”
A California judge will determine whether sealing your arrest record serves the interests of justice after a consideration of:
- any hardships that you may have encountered as a result of the arrest
- evidence that you are now rehabilitated
- any additional evidence regarding the arrest
WHAT ARREST RECORDS CANNOT BE SEALED?
However, not every arrest record may be sealed as a result of the CARE Act. You cannot have an arrest record sealed in this state if:
- You can still be prosecuted for the offense.
- You were charged with murder, but the case did not go to trial.
- You evaded prosecution by fleeing the state or by stealing another person’s identity.
You also cannot have the record of an arrest sealed if you have a “pattern of arrests” for a crime such as child abuse, elder abuse, or domestic abuse. A pattern is defined by the CARE Act as five or more arrests or two or more convictions on abuse charges within a three-year period.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ARREST RECORD IS SEALED?
If your effort to have an arrest record sealed is approved, the court issues a written order which “deems” that in the eyes of the state, the arrest never happened. The court will forbid both credit reporting agencies and the state of California from sharing sealed information about the arrest.
Under the CARE Act, the court will prohibit the disclosure of the arrest – as well as the disclosure of any details regarding the arrest – to any entity or person, with the following narrow exceptions.
Even after you successfully have an arrest record sealed, it is imperative to understand that an arrest may still appear during a background check if you apply for a job in the law enforcement field or if you apply to a state bar association to practice as an attorney.
SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A LAWYER ABOUT SEALING AN ARREST RECORD?
Nevertheless, having an arrest record sealed is a genuine benefit for those who are seeking or pursuing a professional career in teaching, law, medicine, or a variety of other fields that require professional certification.
The CARE Act has been in effect for more than a year. If you need to have the record of an arrest sealed, discuss your case and your qualifications to have an arrest record sealed under the CARE Act – promptly – with an experienced Long Beach criminal defense lawyer.
CAN CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS BE EXPUNGED IN CALIFORNIA?
Arrests are not the only items that can be removed from your record. A criminal conviction may also be an obstacle to your educational and professional goals, but having that conviction expunged can open important doors for your future.
Expunging a criminal conviction in this state also requires the assistance of a California criminal defense attorney. Some California convictions, however, cannot be expunged. If you served time in a California state prison as part of a criminal sentence, that conviction cannot be expunged.
WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE A CONVICTION EXPUNGED – IF YOU CAN?
Other than that, if you need to have a conviction expunged, it can probably be done with the help of one of the experienced criminal lawyers in Long Beach. Expunging a conviction permanently seals it from landlords, creditors, most employers, and most professional licensing boards.
If you were arrested and never charged, or if your conviction qualifies for an expungement, you deserve justice, and you need to contact – immediately – a lawyer who will fight hard for that justice on your behalf. When you need a legal record sealed, an attorney’s help is your right.