Skip Navigation Links

Expunging Criminal Records


Clean Up Your Criminal Record

"Expungement" is a term used when referring to a process of cleaning up your criminal record. In this process you request that the court reopen your criminal case, withdraw the plea or guilty verdict, dismiss the charges, and re-close the case without a conviction. In effect, you are no longer a convicted person. However, the case record itself will still exist, but the outcome of the case in will no longer be your plea or conviction, but instead dismissed in the "Interests of Justice," or "IOJ".

Not all convictions can be dismissed. Expungement is limited to cases in which the defendant convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony that could have been charged as a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to county jail time, probation, a fine, or a combination of those three. Additionally, the Penal Codes permitting expungement of criminal records expressly prohibit certain types of convictions from being dismissed. Most of these exceptions involve serious vehicle code violations (those that result in two or more points on your driving record) or sexual offenses against minors. For a detailed list of exceptions see Penal Code (PC) § 1203.4 and PC § 1203.4a.

There are three laws used in expungement:

1.  The first, PC § 1203.4, is used to expunge cases in which probation was part of the sentence.

2.  The second, PC § 1203.4a, is used expunge cases in which there was no probation.

3.  The third, PC § 17, is used to reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor, which can then be dismissed. Felonies meeting the criteria under PC § 17 are often called "wobblers," meaning they could be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor.

If you received a state prison term as your sentence, or were convicted of a felony that cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor, you will need to file paperwork for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, rather than a Petition and Order for Dismissal. More information is available from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/BOPH/pardons.html.  

FORMS

The Judicial Council forms commonly used in this procedure are:

Click here to download this Guide, with step-by-step instructions, including sample forms. 

updated 01/14 mpj
reviewed 08/13 en