How to Seal Your Adult Arrest Record (California State Records)
To get your arrest record sealed, you will need to go through the law enforcement agency and/or court in the county where you were arrested, depending on your situation.
Get and Fill Out the Forms
You will first need to get and fill a “Petition and Order to Seal and Destroy Adult Arrest Records.” Some counties have their own local forms to use for this, but you can always use the standard Department of Justice form.
To find your county’s local forms (if your county has them), you can check with the county court or on the court’s website, or contact the law enforcement agency that arrested you.
You can find the standard Department of Justice form on the DOJ website at: http://ag.ca.gov/idtheft/forms/bcii_8270.pdf.
To complete the petition, you will need the following information:
- The exact date you were arrested;
- The name of the law enforcement agency that arrested you (for example, the city police department, county sheriff, California Highway Patrol, or other law enforcement agency);
- The case number or booking number that the arresting law enforcement agency assigned to your case;
- What offense or charges you were arrested for; AND
- The outcome (disposition) of those charges (i.e. what happened in your case).
You will also need to get copies of any documents or other evidence in support of your petition. This may include declarations, affidavits, police reports, or anything else that can be used to identify or describe the arrest. If you are petitioning to seal your record on the basis of factual innocence, you will need to find evidence supporting this claim. These documents will become part of your petition. Make extra copies of your Petition and all supporting documents (at least 4 copies). A sample petition is available in APPENDIX II, on PG. 1084.
File the Petition and Order (plus Supporting Documents)
After you have completed the forms, you will need to file your petition and any supporting documents, with the correct agency. Where you file your petition depends on your situation:
- OPTION 1: If NO charges (complaint) were ever filed against you—in other words, if you never had to appear in court after your arrest—you will give your petition directly to the law enforcement agency that arrested you.
- You will also need to serve a copy of the petition on the District Attorney of the county in which you were arrested.
- OPTION 2: If charges (a complaint) were filed against you, and you appeared in court, you must file your petition with the clerk of the court where you appeared for the case. (If possible, it is recommended that you ask a lawyer to help you with your case.
- When you file your petition with the court clerk, the clerk will set a hearing date for your petition.
- You will also need to serve copies of your petition on the law enforcement agency that arrested you AND the District Attorney of the county in which you were arrested. You must serve your petition on the DA at least 10 days before your hearing date.
- OPTION 1: If you gave your petition directly to the law enforcement agency that arrested you, the law enforcement agency has 60 days to review and respond to your petition. If neither the law enforcement agency nor the District Attorney responds to your petition within the 60 days, the petition is considered denied.
- If your petition is denied—either because the law enforcement agency tells you they are denying your petition, OR because they failed to respond—you can then file your petition with the court and request that the court order your record sealed (follow steps for OPTION 2 above).
- NOTE: You MUST file your original petition with the court. This means that you will have to get your original petition back from the law enforcement agency that you gave it to, and then file it with the court.
- OPTION 2: If you filed your petition with the court (either first, or after it was denied by the law enforcement agency), there will be a hearing in front of a judge who will decide whether or not to grant your petition. At the hearing, you (or your lawyer) will present evidence of your factual innocence, and try to convince the court to grant your petition to have your arrest record sealed. The District Attorney may present evidence and argument against you.
If the court finds that you are factually innocent, the judge will grant your petition and order that your arrest record and all related information be sealed for three years and then destroyed. If the judge does not find you factually innocent (denies your petition), you can appeal the decision.
Cal. Penal Code § 851.8(c). ↑
Cal. Penal Code § 851.8. (“If…the law enforcement agency and prosecuting lawyer do not respond to the petition by accepting or denying the petition within 60 days of the running of the relevant statute of limitations or within 60 days after the receipt of the petition in cases where the statute of limitations has previously lapsed, then the petition shall be deemed to be denied.”). ↑
Cal. Penal Code § 851.8(b). ↑
Cal. Penal Code § 851.8(b). ↑