Petition for Dismissal (California Expungement)

In most cases, you will need to file papers in court and ask a judge to expunge your conviction. This process is called a Petition for Dismissal. The process is almost the same for requesting mandatory or discretionary dismissal, but there are a few small differences. Remember, it is always good to ask a lawyer for assistance, especially if you are requesting discretionary dismissal.

Find California Court Form CR-180 and CR-181 (Petition and Order for Dismissal)in Appendix KK, on PG. 1070.

Get the court forms you will need to request an expungement from the court: the Petition for Dismissal (form CR-180) and the Order for Dismissal (form CR-181)

    The “Petition for Dismissal” (form CR-180) is the formal document you use to ask the court to expunge your conviction.
    If the judge approves your expungement, s/he will sign the “Order for Dismissal” (form CR-181) to make your expungement an official court order.
    You can get these forms from several places, including.
    The Clerk of the court where you were convicted;
    The California Courts’ official website (; or
    From your lawyer.
    A sample form CR-180 and form CR-181 are included in APPENDIX FF, on PG. 1070 for reference. BUT it is always better to get the most current version from an official source, in case there have been any recent changes to the form.

IMPORTANT: If you have convictions from multiple cases, you will need to file a separate petition for each case.


Fill out your court forms (Petition AND Order)[3312]

Here are some tips for filling out the forms:

    Petition Fill in ALL the information that the forms ask for. You will need the information from your RAP sheet (or court records from all of your cases) in order to fill out the forms.
    Petition question #1If you are filing a petition to have a felony “wobbler” expunged, you will need to mark “Yes” in the box that asks if the felony is eligible for reduction to a misdemeanor under Penal Code Section 17(b). (See PG. 970 for more information about expungement of felony “wobblers.”)
    Bottom of Petition —If your sentence included probation, check the box for “1203.4.” If your sentence did NOT include probation, check the box for “1203.4a.” If you were convicted of a felony under California’s Realignment Act, check the box for “1203.41.” (See PG. 961 for more information about expungement of felonies that were sentenced under Realignment.)
    Bottom of Petition—Don’t forget to sign the form and put the date!
    OrderOnly fill out the top boxes (for “Lawyer or Party Without Lawyer,” “People of the State of California v. Defendant,” and “Case Number”), and leave the rest of the form blank (all of the numbered questions). Make sure the information is the same as the top boxes on the Petition form! The judge will fill in all the other information after deciding whether or not to grant your expungement.
    Petition AND OrderIf you are filling out the forms for yourself, you are BOTH the “petitioner” AND the “defendant,” so you should fill in your information wherever you see these terms.
    If your conviction qualifies for mandatory dismissal, you only need to fill out the Petition (CR-180) and Order (CR-181) forms. However, if your conviction only qualifies for discretionary dismissal, you will need to include a few more documents in addition to your petition. (See PG. 962 for more information on the difference between mandatory and discretionary expungement, and to figure out which type of expungement you qualify for.)


(FOR DISCRETIONARY PETITIONS ONLY) Gather additional supporting documents to include with your Petition.

If you are requesting a discretionary dismissal, you will also need to include the following documents. (Note: Make a photocopy of any documents you send with your petition, and keep the original for yourself!)

    A Declaration. A declaration is a statement that you write under penalty of perjury, that explains why expungement of your conviction is “in the interests of justice.” Your declaration should say why you deserve to get an expungement, and how it will help you succeed in the future:[3313]
    How have you changed since your conviction? What was going on in your life at the time of the conviction? What has changed in your life since then?
    What efforts have you made toward rehabilitation? What are you doing to improve yourself and your situation (such as treatment programs, work or school, connecting with family, finding religion)?
    What are your goals for the future (for example, getting a job or promotion, getting your GED or a college degree, connecting with family, starting a business)?
    How will getting an expungement help you to achieve your goals?
    You can use the official Declaration form (MC-031) published by the Judicial Council of California which is available from the court clerk, or on the California Courts website at:
    For tips for what to write in your Declaration, see APPENDIX L, on PG. 1022. For a sample Declaration, see APPENDIX M, on PG. 1023.
    Letters of Support. Letters of support serve as character references and emphasize the positive impact that granting your dismissal will have. You should ask for letters from people who know you well, and who can talk about your positive qualities, your accomplishments, and your rehabilitation efforts. These can be from your rabbi, priest, or pastor; your employer (current or previous); your teachers; your sponsor or mentor; your counselor or case manager; community leaders and other members of community organizations that you are involved in; and your friends, family, and neighbors. When you ask someone for a letter of support, you can remind them of your accomplishments and explain what you would like them to write about (for example, how you have changed since your conviction, your efforts at rehabilitation, your good character, your efforts to improve yourself and help others around you, and why you deserve to have your conviction expunged). For more information on how to write a Letter of Support and tips for what to write, see APPENDIX N, on PG. 1024. A sample Letter of Support is included in APPENDIX O, on PG. 1025.
    Proof of Accomplishments. If you have completed any classes or training programs since your conviction (such as vocational training or job readiness programs; GED classes, or other schooling; mentorship courses, reentry programs, restorative justice workshops, or any other treatment programs), or if you have earned any certificates, awards, or degrees, or if there are any other accomplishments that you’re proud of, you should make sure to include this information with your petition! This can be anything you accomplished while you were incarcerated or since you’ve been released. (Note: Make a photocopy of any documents you send with your petition, and keep the originals for yourself!)
    Letter to Request a Hearing. If you are asking for a discretionary expungement, you should ALWAYS ask for a hearing in front of a judge, so that you have the best chance to convince him/her to grant your request. To ask for a hearing, write a very brief letter saying that you would like to request a hearing on your Petition for Dismissal. Make sure to include your name and case number, and address your letter to “The Honorable Judge” (with the judge’s name, if you know it). Turn in this letter with your Petition and other documents.
    Other Documents: Each court may have local rules about what additional documents you can include with your petition and what documents you should bring to the hearing. Check with the court clerk about what to do with any other documents that you would like the judge to consider.

Make copies of your petition and supporting documents.

After you have filled out your petition and attached your supporting documents, you will need to make several copies of everything. Ask the court clerk how many copies are required by the court in your county. If you can’t talk to the clerk, make at least five copies to be safe.

Often, the original petition goes in the court’s file (the “docket”), one copy goes to the District Attorney, one copy goes to the probation department, and one “courtesy” copy is saved for the judge. But these procedures may vary by county, so it’s important to ask the clerk how many copies you need to make.

“Serve” the Court Papers

What is “service” and how do I do it?[3314] Service is the formal process of giving copies of the documents in a court case to the other people connected with the case. It is a very important step because it lets the other people know 1) that your court case exists, and 2) what actions have been taken in the case so far. A case CANNOT go forward until the court documents are properly served (delivered). The most common methods of service are in person or by mail, although in come situations, service can be by fax or email also.

In general, for an expungement petition, your papers have to be served on the District Attorney and the county probation department. Ask the court clerk whether there is anyone else who needs to get the papers also.

File Your Petition and “Proof of Service” with the Court Clerk.

After your papers have been “served” on all of the other parties, bring the following documents to the court clerk: Your original Petition; your additional supporting documents (if you are requesting a discretionary dismissal); one set of copies for your records; AND the Proof of Service for your Petition. The clerk will stamp your papers with the date and give you a stamped copy. Remember, the court clerk will usually have an office or counter at the courthouse, so that’s where you will need to go to file your papers. The clerk may or may not give you a court date for a hearing before a judge.

    FOR MANDATORY DISMISSALS: In some counties, mandatory expungements are granted without any hearing on your Petition. Other counties require a formal hearing before an expungement is granted.
    FOR DISCRETIONARY DISMISSALS: If you are requesting a discretionary expungement, you should ALWAYS ask for a hearing before a judge, so that you have the best chance to convince him/her to grant your expungement. Tell the court clerk that you would like to request a hearing and show him/her your letter requesting a hearing, which you should include with your other documents.

Go to Your Court Date/Hearing

If you are given a hearing date, you or your lawyer MUST go to court for the hearing!

    FOR MANDATORY DISMISSALS: If you qualify for a mandatory dismissal, the judge will grant your petition, and dismiss your case. You shouldn’t have to do anything if there is a hearing. You should receive something in the mail from the court within a few weeks confirming that your record has been officially changed.
    FOR DISCRETIONARY DISMISSALS: If you are requesting a discretionary dismissal, the hearing is your chance to explain your case to the judge and persuade him or her that dismissing your conviction is “in the interests of justice.” You will need to show the judge why you deserve to have your conviction expunged, and how an expungement will help you succeed and achieve your goals.[3315] You should be prepared to explain the information in your Declaration and in any supporting documents that you included with your Petition. Make sure you bring extra copies of these documents to the hearing! In general, the judge will tell you right there at the hearing whether or not your expungement is granted.

Follow up!

After the judge grants your expungement and signs the Order making it official, the court will send the information to the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies. It may take a few months for these agencies to correct your official criminal record (RAP sheet) to show that your conviction was expunged. You should follow up with the Department of Justice in 3-4 months to confirm that the changes were made. Remember, expungement does NOT erase the conviction from your criminal record. Instead, your RAP sheet will state that your case has been “dismissed [in] furtherance of justice (DISM, FURTH OF JUST)” OR “dismissed pursuant to PC 1203.4.”

If the DOJ has NOT corrected your record after several months, you may need to ask them to do so by filing a “Claim of Alleged Inaccuracy or Incompleteness” (form BCIA 8706). The process for challenging and correcting information in your RAP sheet is detailed in APPENDIX F, on PG. 1010.

If your petition is denied, re-file it

If your petition for expungement is denied, you are allowed to file it again (“re-file”). At the end of your hearing, ask the judge to explain the reason why s/he did not grant your request for an expungement, so that you can take steps to fix the problem before you re-file your Petition. If you forget to ask or cannot get this information from the judge for some reason, try calling the court clerk to see if he or she can help you figure out what to do to make sure your Petition is granted the next time.[3316]

  1. 3312

    See also Dealing With Criminal Records in Alameda County Self-Help Manual, East Bay Community Law Center (2005),

  2. 3313

    See also Dealing With Criminal Records in Alameda County Self-Help Manual, East Bay Community Law Center (2005),

  3. 3314

    Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 414.10, 415.10-415.95, 417.10-417.40, 684.110-684.140, 684.210-684.220, 1010-1020; see also Personal Service: Deliver Court Papers to the Other Party, Sacramento County Public Law Library (Mar. 2014),

  4. 3315

    See also Dealing With Criminal Records in Alameda County Self-Help Manual, East Bay Community Law Center (2005),

  5. 3316

    See Cleaning Your Record, California Courts,