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Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record

If you have been convicted of a crime you may be eligible for relief through a relatively simple legal process. Some convictions can be modified on your record so that when you apply for most jobs, you can legally indicate that you were not convicted of that crime. Other convictions may be reduced from felony to misdemeanor status in certain situations. Also, Orange County residents who have completed a term in prison may be eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon.

NOTE: This information deals with criminal convictions obtained in California only. The information and forms are intended to help you with the legal process of cleaning up your criminal record and are not intended as a legal advice. The results may vary. Other states, the military, and the federal government may have similar procedures. The Additional Resources section at the bottom of this page contains links to federal and military websites.


Resources for Help

The California Courts website has detailed information about cleaning up your criminal record. Read this information carefully before selecting the forms below.

The Orange County Public Defender’s "New Leaf Program" assists those who are cleaning up with record seeking a fresh start and improved opportunities for employment, professional licensing or consumer credit.

The court’s Self-Help Centers have "Dismissal Workshops"held throughout the county.


Find out the Details of Your Conviction

In order to clean up your criminal record, you need to know what is on your criminal record so that you can figure out your options and choose the correct forms. Go to the California Courts website to read more about how to get this information.


Forms

The information below provides a brief overview only. Do not attempt to select and complete the forms without first reading the California Court’s website on cleaning up your criminal record, consulting with the Public Defender, or the court’s Self-Help Center listed above.

Petition for Dismissal (Penal Code Sections 1203.4 or 1203.4a)

This is the most common process for cleaning up your record, typically used for misdemeanor and non-traffic infraction convictions. You are eligible for dismissal of a conviction under certain conditions, except for convictions in which you were sentenced to state prison or sentenced under the authority of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Go to the California Courts website to find out more about the eligibility requirements and the convictions which are not eligible for dismissal.

Read and complete these forms once you determined that you have an eligible misadeamnor conviction. If you have a felony conviction, see below for dismissals pursuant to Penal Code Section 17(b):

Pay the court the required costs for reimbursement of services at the time of filing the documents:

  • $120.00 if petitioning the court pursuant to Section 1203.4 (probation ordered)
  • $ 60.00 if petitioning the court pursuant to Section 1203.4a (no probation ordered)

If you cannot afford to pay this amount you may submit a Defendant’s Financial Statement (MC-210)at the time of filing your Petition and Order. The court will rule on your ability to pay all or part of the fee.

Remember, you can also get help from the:

You can read more about What a Granted Petition Will and Will Not Do.

Petition to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records (Penal Code section 851.8)

There are two instances when you may petition the court under this statute:

  • When the prosecutor has not filed charges and the arresting agency has denied your Petition to seal or destroy the arrest record. File the Petition in the court that has jurisdiction over the area where the arrest occurred. Refer to the "Criminal" column in the Court Designation Listto find the correct court. For example, if the arrest occurred in Newport Beach, the Petition is filed at the Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach Facility. OR,
  • Charges were filed, the action was dismissed and the court has determined that you are factually innocent. File the Petition in the court where the case was heard and dismissed.

Read and complete these forms:

Remember, you can also get help from the:

You can read more about What a Granted Petition Will and Will Not Do.

Petition for Dismissal after Completion of Drug Diversion (Penal Code section 1210.1 (e) (1))

After successful completion of the drug treatment program for nonviolent drug possession offenses, the court shall conduct a hearing in order to determine whether you have successfully completed drug treatment and substantially complied with the terms of probation, including refraining from the use of drugs for the purpose of setting aside the conviction and dismissing the action. If this hearing did not occur, contact the attorney or public defender who represented you to see if you qualify for a dismissal of the conviction under Penal Code section 1210.1.

The court provides forms and instructions:

You can read more about What a Granted Petition Will and Will Not Do.

Petition to Reduce Felony to a Misdemeanor and Dismiss Action (Penal Code section 17(b), section 1203.4)

If you were convicted of a felony and not sentenced to state prison, certain felony violations under California Penal Code section 17(b) may be eligible to be reduced to a misdemeanor and dismissed if you are done with probation and/or jail time.

Read and complete these forms:

Note: If you are still on probation, you must first Petition the court to be released from probation (California Penal Code section 1203.3).

Because this is a complicated process, and the steps you take depend on whether you are still on probation or not, and whether your felony qualifies to be reduced and dismissed, contact the Orange County Public Defender’s New Leaf Program staff or the court’s Self-Help Center.

You can read more about What a Granted Petition Will and Will Not Do.

Petition for Rehabilitation and Pardon of a Felony (sentenced to prison) (Penal Code section 4852.01 et. seq.)

If you were convicted of a felony and committed to a state prison, institution, or agency, you may file a Petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon under certain conditions. The petition is filed in the Superior Court of the county in which you reside. The process is complicated. You have the right to have the Public Defender help you.

Read and complete these forms:

You can read more about What a Granted Petition Will and Will Not Do.

Petition for Rehabilitation and Pardon of a Felony or Misdemeanor Sex Offense (sentenced to probation)
(Penal Code section 4852.01 et seq)

If you were convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor sex offense specified in Penal Code Section 290, and you were placed on probation, you may file a Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon if you meet certain requirements and conditions. The process is complicated. You have the right to have the Public Defender help you.

You must:

You can read more about What a Granted Petition Will and Will Not Do.


What a Granted Petition Will / Will Not Do

Read more about what a granted Petition for Dismissal will and will not do in "What a Dismissal Will Do."

If you have received a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon, you can read what a Pardon will and will not do:


If Your Petition is Denied

If the court denies your Petition, contact the Orange County Public Defender for further assistance.


Juvenile Records

Your juvenile records do appear on your criminal record. As of your 18th birthday, you are eligible to petition to have your juvenile records sealed. Once your records are sealed, no one can gain access to them and they will be completely destroyed 5 years from the date of sealing.

Juvenile records are not automatically sealed upon your 18th birthday. You must petition the juvenile court to have them sealed. Information and documents to initiate this record sealing process are available from the Orange County Probation Department.

The Orange County Public Defender can also help you with this process. You can read more about sealing Juvenile Records in the Public Defender’s "New Leaf Program."

If you graduated from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice, your juvenile convictions will have been dismissed as part of your graduation. If you do not petition to have your juvenile records sealed and destroyed, they will remain on your record until your 38th birthday; then they will be destroyed.


Additional Resources

If you are seeking to clean up a criminal record in another county, state or federal conviction, the procedures vary. Contact:

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