Factual Innocence Petition In California
These petitions are very difficult to get granted by the judge because proving the concept of factual innocence basically means that once the facts are looked at by the judge, no reasonable person could construe that you committed whatever crime they’re accusing you of, and a lot of times the reason that the police arrest people is because there is a story out there. There is information out there that they committed some sort of an offense. Now, that story might not be completely accurate. There may be problems with it. It may be debatable, but that’s the exact type of case that you can be arrested on and that’s the exact type of case that should be evaluated by the prosecutors, and sometimes it should be tried in front of a jury. Other times maybe the prosecutors look at in and say we’re not filing this case. We don’t think we can win it. There’s just not enough evidence, especially with the standard being beyond a reasonable doubt to prove somebody guilty of a crime in Los Angeles.
That’s a different standard than factual innocence. That concept and the case law that supports it and kind of how the judges deal with those factual innocence petitions. So again, it’s very difficult to win those. I can only kind of give you an example of a case that I had where my client was found not guilty of the crime and I filed a petition for factual innocence to try to get rid of the arrest record and the judge denied it, and I’m like wait a minute, how much more factual innocence to you want? He was found not guilty. But really, that’s not the test.
It almost seems like this whole factual innocence thing is designed to protect the police who are the ones arresting people, because I guess they feel that if there is a bunch of factual innocence petitions granted, the people could pursue the police and claim that the police unlawfully arrested them, false imprisonment and now there’s going to a bunch of civil lawsuits. That’s what it seems like to me. I don’t think anybody would ever admit that as far as the authorities go. But this whole factual innocence thing is a bit ridiculous because what it’s really saying is, if they accidentally grab you and arrest you and they find out later that they got the wrong person, it was a complete mistake, fine, we’ll take it off there, but beyond that we’re not taking it off. So, that’s really what the test seems to be.
I don’t like it because if they don’t file a case against you, or they file and they dismiss it and you get no conviction, having that mark of being arrested on your record is almost as bad as the conviction itself. You don’t want anybody to see anything criminally related in Los Angeles as it relates to you. So, they really should be more lenient with these factual petition arguments, and some new case law did come out recently that basically says that if they arrest you and there’s no filing of the case, then you have a much stronger, easier path to get that arrest record sealed and destroyed so that nobody can see it.