I've been practicing for many years now and anytime anybody was arrested, you never really have an opportunity to get that arrest record sealed. So, a lot of times law enforcement wouldn't file a case or they would later dismiss the case because they realized they didn't have a good case against you and you would not be able to get that arrest record sealed.
So, anytime someone wanted to look you up and searched you, they would find that you had been arrested. Obviously, nobody wants anything on their record, even if it's not a conviction — even if it shows as a dismissal.
Sealing Arrest Record
So now, Penal Code Section 851.91 allows people to go back in time to seal that arrest record and there's a number of different circumstances that permit you to do it. One of the big prerequisites to it is that the Statute of Limitations has to have run on the case. In other words, they're not going to let you do it if the prosecutors can still file the case. That wouldn't be fair to seal an arrest record and the next thing you know, the prosecutors get evidence and they end up filing the case.
So, the bottom of line is, once the Statute of Limitations on the case is ran, if you've been arrested for a crime and you have an arrest record, then you can avail yourself of this Penal Code section which allows you to seal your record so nobody can find it. If somebody runs you in the DOJ, they won't be able to find that arrest record.
That's huge and unheard of that law enforcement and basically the Governor of California has permitted this to happen.
Now there are exceptions. You're going to have to sit down with an attorney if you want to get this done. Tell the attorney your situation. I would just go to the court and get what's called a “minute order” and that will basically show any record that you have and then you can bring that into the attorney and talk about it.
I mean, if you have a bunch of arrests dating back many years, you're probably not going to be able to avail yourself of this 851.91 Penal Code Section. You're probably not going to be able to seal your record.
This is starting to get very close to the juvenile records, which every time someone would call me and say I want to seal my record, I'd say, it would have to be a juvenile record. You can't seal an adult record. You'd have to been found factually innocent which is a very tough standard; almost impossible to meet.
I had a jury verdict one time and my client was found not guilty. We tried to seal and destroy the arrest record. The judge denied it. That's how harsh the factually innocent standard was.
Benefits of Sealing Records
This is a huge benefit to people who have had a criminal record, and the reason that the Governor of California has done this is because people can't get jobs. This is a huge stigma that follows them around for their entire life. If they've cleaned themselves up, haven't picked up any new cases and we know that the case was dismissed, why shouldn't they be able to get rid of the arrest record.
I've had these arguments in court with judges for many years now, saying what's the point of the dismissal pursuant to an expungement or Penal Code Section 1203.4 if you're going to leave that arrest record in there and anybody can see the person was arrested for a particular crime.
If you have a situation where you want to get rid of that arrest record so you have a completely clean record, give me a call, we'll sit down and look at your minute order and we'll see what you have on there and see if you meet the requirements of Penal Code Section 851.91 and we will do everything we can to seal your criminal record in Los Angeles.
Wherever your record is in California, we are able to do that. So, this is a great change in criminal defense. It's not easy to get these victories in criminal defense and I think this is wonderful for people who have a clean record other than a blemish because of an arrest where a case was ultimately dismissed and the Statute of Limitations for that case has gone away.