Expunging Adult Criminal Records in California

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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You must file a petition to get your record expunged and conviction dismissed in California. This section discusses how to petition properly for this expungement.

If you fall into any of the six situations listed below, the California petitioning process is fairly straightforward.

  1. Misdemeanor convictions – still on probation:
    • File a PC 1203.3
    • File a PC 1203.4
  2. Misdemeanor convictions – successfully completed probation:
    • Just file the PC 1203.4
  3. Misdemeanor convictions – no probation:
    • File a PC 1203.4a
  4. Felony conviction – still on probation:
    • File a PC 1203.3,
    • File a PC 17(b), then
    • File a PC 1203.4
  5. Felony conviction – successfully completed probation:
    • File a PC 17(b), then
    • File a PC 1203.4
  6. Felony conviction – no probation:
    • File a PC 17(b), then
    • File a PC 1203.4a

For your reference, the forms listed here are as follows:

  • PC 1203.3: Petition for requesting early termination of probation
  • PC 1203.4: Petition for expungement
  • PC 1203.4a: Petition for expungement for convictions with no probation
  • PC 17(b): Petition to reduce a felony

For more on these terms and situations, see our article Eligibility for Record Dismissal or Expungements in California

Other Methods of California Expungement

What should you do if your situation falls outside the six situations detailed above? For instance, if your conviction never resulted in a state prison sentence or put you under the authority of the Corrections & Rehabilitation Department, then you can file for a dismissal: Here the court withdraws your guilty plea or verdict, enters a not-guilty plea instead, and dismisses the conviction (the dismissal is noted on your record but that’s all that remains).

What if you were sentenced to state prison or were placed under the Corrections & Rehabilitation Department’s authority? You will need to file paperwork for a Certificate of Rehabilitation & Pardon; you are not otherwise eligible for an expungement under PC 1203.4 or 1203.4a. For further discussion, see our article on California Certificate of Rehabilitation. The certificate application process is complex and time-consuming; even determining eligibility requirements typically requires contacting the Board of Parole Hearings. You may want to consider hiring an experienced California criminal lawyer to assist you through this process. Though the odds of successfully obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation are slim, it is worth considering – the Certificate exceeds expungement in terms of the benefits it can provide you (e.g., increased opportunities to pursue licensing and automatic access to the Governor’s pardon).

If you do not have access to your local public defender or prefer to hire a private lawyer skilled in criminal affairs in California (or any other state), you may click here and search for some whose skills match your needs.

For more information on California criminal expungements, see the following articles:

Overview of California Criminal Expungements

Eligibility for Record Dismissal or Expungements in California

Process for Expunging Criminal Adult Records in California

Sealing and Destroying Adult Arrest Records in California: Factual Innocence Remedy

Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records in California

California Certificate of Rehabilitation

Do I Need an Attorney in California to File an Expungement or Petition to Seal my Criminal Records?

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