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Expunging Criminal Records

Clean Up Your Criminal Record

The VLSP Expungement Clinic has created a video explaining the process in Sacramento. Watch this video on Youtube.

"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, PC § 1203.4a, and PC § 1203.41.

The laws used in expungement are:

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

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

3.  PC § 1203.41, is used to expunge cases in which you were sentenced for a felony, yet you served time only in a county jail, and not in a state prison.

4.  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   


The Judicial Council forms commonly used in this procedure are:

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

Expunging Criminal Records (Step by Step)

updated 01/15 rmm
reviewed 01/15 en