How To Clean Up Your Criminal Record in California. Expungement Forms Are Free. 2013 Update

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Need to clean up your criminal record so you can get a better job? It may be possible, and the forms are probably free.

Many states have a process whereby the court can dismiss an Adult criminal conviction after the case and sentence are over. This “post conviction dismissal” allows the Defendant to legally avoid disclosing the conviction on most private employment applications.

Cha Chingh! No more checking that box? Everyone who qualifies should do it. This article is about that process, and we just updated the details and research for you.

In California, this process of cleaning up your criminal record is called “Expungement”. Many states may have a similar process.

What is an Expungement?

Expungement is a legal process through which a person may get a conviction removed from the court’s files and off of a government published criminal record. It is dismissal by the court after conviction, and after probation ends. Once it happens, the defendant can legally deny that the conviction happened.

Most states have similar processes, but in California expungements and/or “petitions for certificates of rehabilitation” are controlled by the provisions of California Penal Code section 1203.4.  If you have an old misdemeanor conviction, or minor felony conviction, getting the conviction expunged has the same effect as a dismissal.

Generally an Expungement starts with the filing of a document called a “Petition” with the court clerk, and then a court hearing in front of a judge. A judge reviews the petition and can grant the Petition, deny it, or say come back later.

Once an expungement (or Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation) is approved by the court, a record of conviction is removed form the court’s files, and the defendant can go on with their life as if the conviction never happened.

There are some exceptions, including:

• Disclosure – Granting of the Petition does not relieve you from the obligation to disclose the conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery.

• DMV – Granting of the Petition does not affect Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) actions or future consequences for crimes involving operation of a motor vehicle.

• Firearms – Granting of the Petition does not permit you to own, possess, or have in your custody or control any firearm if you are prohibited from doing so.

• Sex Registration – Granting of the Petition does not relieve you from any obligation to register under Penal Code §290.

• Sealing – Granting of the Petition does not seal your record, destroy or remove any entries from the court, law enforcement, Department of Justice or DMV. The case, including the conviction will remain public record but it will show a post conviction dismissal if someone pulls the case file. (Source: Orange County Superior Court)

Juvenile offenders must apply separately for “record sealing” – which is a different process.

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For people who have lost employment opportunities because of an old conviction, an expungement can be a god send and an economic boost because they no longer have to disclose the expunge conviction on employment applications.

The Official Petition for Expungement Form for California is Judicial Council Form CR-180. If you get the “Petition for Dismissal” in Monterey County Superior, it comes with good instructions.

There are fees for filing a Petition for Dismissal (expungement). You have to contact the Criminal Division Court Clerk at the courthouse where you are filing to get upto date info on teh filing fee.

What kind of cases or convictions can be expunged?

Most misdemeanors and minor felonies qualify (see below). First offense DUI convictions can usually be expunged within 4 years.em>

But to get an expungement granted, the defendant usually must have completed their sentence without trouble, and have completed any term of probation to its end. New convictions do not qualify, nor do convictions where the defendant is still on probation, or still owes fines or jail time. However, in some cases, probation can be terminated early under authority of California Penal Code section 1203.3.

What if You Were Not Placed on Probation? (CA Penal Code sec 1203.4a)

If you were not placed on probation and more than one year has elapsed since the date of pronouncement of judgment, and you did not serve a prison term, you may petition the court to dismiss the charges under authority of California Penal Code section 1203.4(a). To qualify, the court sentence(s) must be completed and you cannot be presently serving a sentence for any offense, or under current criminal charges.

What If You Are Still On Probation?

In some cases, it is possible to get the court to end probation early. We have a related article on the subject, and sell a Self Help form for Motion to Terminate Misdemeanor Probation Early.

With felony convictions, the matter is more complicated, but can be done. If the conviction could have been charged by the prosecutor as a misdemeanor or a felony originally (known as a “wobbler” offense), the felony conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor through application to the court under authority of Penal Code section 17(b) (“17b motion”).

Once the conviction is reduced to a misdemeanor, the expungement process is used to expunge it as a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

Expungement petitions can be filed and completed by everyday people. The best way to start is to go to the local law library and ask for the Practice Guide on criminal expungements to get a sample petition that you can use as a template.

However, getting an Attorney to do the work is usually a more efficient option.  An attorney can often do the work much faster and more accurately because they have specific training on how to get it done right. And usually, it can be done without the client having to attend a court appearance.

If you have an old conviction you want expunged, and you want me to do it for you in California, request a Free Expungement Review and I will contact you if I can help. I usually charge between $500 and $1200, depending on complexity. I make it easy for you to hire me, and know how to get it done right.

Here is a table to illustrate what can be done in certain situations:

Conviction Status Steps to Expungement Legal Process / Statutes
Misdemeanor conviction and probation sill pending. 1) Make a motion to the court for early termination of probation; and
2) file petition to have conviction dismissed.
Prepare and file a petition to have probation terminated early under Penal Code section 1203.3, and then file a petition for expungement under Penal Code section 1203.4.
Misdemeanor conviction and probation completed. File petition to have conviction dismissed. Attorney prepares and files Penal Code section 1203.4 petition for expungement with the court where the conviction exists. The Court then reviews the petition and supporting documents, and makes a ruling.
Misdemeanor conviction and no probation at all. Prepare and file petition to have conviction dismissed with the court where conviction occurred. Prepare and file PC 1203.4a petition for expungement.
Felony conviction and are still on probation. Step 1: Request early release from probation; and
2: File petition to have conviction reduced to misdemeanor; and
3: file motion to dismiss the newly created misdemeanor.
Prepare and file a PC 1203.3 petition to have probation terminated early. Prepare and file a PC 17(b) petition to get felony reduced, and PC 1203.4 petition for expungement.
Felony conviction, probation (or county jail time) completed File petition to have conviction reduced and dismissed. Attorney drafts and files a PC 17(b) petition to get felony reduced, and PC 1203.4 petition for expungement.
Felony conviction with no probation, but sentenced to county jail. File petition to have felony reduced to a misdemeanor and file petition to have conviction dismissed. Attorney prepares and files a PC 17(b) petition to get felony reduced, and PC 1203.4a petition for expungement.

Frequently Asked Questions Re: Expungements and 17(b) Motions:

Can Probation Be Ended Early?

Yes. In California, a defendant may apply for early termination of probation under Penal Code section 1204.3. A motion for early termination of probation is often granted where the defendant have proven substantial compliance with probation terms. The judge has discretion to approve or deny a motion for early termination of probation.

To end California Probation Early, I have created a Motion to Terminate Probation for Self Help use. You can use it as is, or as your guide.

Where Can I Get Expungements Forms?

There is a standardized packet of expungement forms for California created by the Judicial Counsel. They can be found at:

What If I Had Probation Violations?

Probation violations generally will not prevent an expungement as long as probation was not revoked, and was completed at some point. However, a judge does have the discretion to deny a petition.

How Do I Find Out If My Probation Is Over?

To get information on a criminal conviction and terms of probation, you should contact the criminal division clerk of the court where the conviction occurred. It is usually best to have the case # ready for the clerk.

What Sort of Convictions Qualify For Expungement?

Most misdemeanors and minor felonies qualify. Common convictions that get expunged are Vehicle Code section 14601 (Driving on a suspended license, Vehicle Code section 23152 (DUI), and Penal Code section 242 (assault).

What Is a Penal Code 17(b) Motion? A Motion to Reduce a Felony.

Penal Code section 17(b) is the law that allows a defendant to ask a judge to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor.  This is important in the expungement process, because it is usually prudent to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor prior to asking for expungement.

A Penal Code section 17(b) motion is really a written request from a Defense Attorney or defendant to the court asking for the reduction.  A good motion includes the reasons why it is in the “interests of Justice” for the Judge to grant the request.  The need for gainful employment is often a good reason to ask.  The “17b motion” can be made at any time, even after the felony case is over.  Normally it is made prior to conviction, and/or after probation is over.

More Info:

Orange County Superior Court Instructions for Filing a Petition for Expungement (excellent);
Penal Code section 1203.4(a);
How to Apply for a Pardon or Certificate of Rehabilitation After Prison (Orange County Superior Court Example Instructions);
Judicial Council Form for a Penal Code 1203.4 Petition and Penal Code 17(b) Motion. Proposed Order for Judge to Sign After Granting the Petition.

More Official California Forms and Instructions are free at the Judicial Council Web Site.

More resources:

Orange County Public Defenders have a program to help with expungements, and provides great info. The Program is called the New Leaf Program.

Final Tip? You can learn a lot by browsing the CA Judicial Council Forms.

About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
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71 Responses to How To Clean Up Your Criminal Record in California. Expungement Forms Are Free. 2013 Update

  1. Sarah says:

    Hi there,
    Thank you for the information above. How long is a typical probation period for a DUI misdemeanor in California(Los Angeles County)? I want to know what steps to take first…should I try and get probation time reduced? Or just go straight through the expungement process? The incident was in August 2010 and the conviction in Dec. 2010. Thank you!

    • Sarah,

      Usually, first offense misdemeanor DUI probation terms run between 3-5 years. If you do not know how long your probationary period is, you need to go to your file cabinet, pull out your red file marked “Active Probation” and look on your list of probation terms the court gave to you on the day you were convicted.

      If you do not have that nice, well organized red file, look for the paper under your car seat, right behind the french fries.

      If you dont find it there, you need to contact the court clerk at the courthouse where your were convicted, and find out the status of your case. In some counties, you can look it up on line, but dont try in Silicon Valley, they are behind in the world of online access to court records. Fresno has better public access to court records on line than that unnamed courthouse across the street from facebook.

      Ending probation and getting an expungement are two different things. Probation must end first, one way or another.

  2. David says:

    Hi Christopher,
    I had a single DUI back in June 2010 with a BAC of 0.12. I paid the fine and finished all the classes for a while already and with no traffic violation since then. Can I apply for expungement for the the DUI record? Would the expungement completely clear my record? (DUI is the only thing that is on my record). If so, does that mean that it won’t come up on the police record if I get a pulled over for a minor traffic violation, say “not complete stop” at a Stop sign… How much does it cost me in time and money to have my DUI record expunged?

    • David,

      This is a very common question. But it’s nearly impossible to answer because I dont know what you mean by “record”.

      Police records? No, the police will still be able to see you have been arrested before, and booked before, etc.

      DMV record? No.

      An expungement is really a post conviction dismissal of the conviction. It is not a sealing of any records.

      You can petition the court to seal your arrest records, after expungement, if that is what you really want.

      Expungements are really for people who want to be able to legally deny they were ever convicted for employment purposes. That is the most common benefit to people.

      Do you get your fine money back from the court? No.
      Does the history of a drivers license suspension from DMV go away? No.

      How much does it cost in time and money? Time – basically zero. I say zero, because you should hire someone else to do it professionally. Can you do it yourself? Yes. How long would that take? Depends on how many times you screw it up and have to go back to court to correct something.

      Cost? Varies. Probably somewhere around $1500 or less to hire an attorney who can do it right.

      But remember, you do not have a right to have the petition granted. It is possible the judge will deny your request.

  3. khaljan bedros says:

    hello,I was wondering if I can getting a driving misdemeanor expunged so I am able to successfully apply for the CLCA ,California low cost insurance program.will a expugement of this from my record keep this information from a application ? have recently become permanently disabled an am on a very low fixed income an need to reduce all expenses possible,thank you for you time and any information you can provide,Khaljan

    • Khaljan,

      The term “driving misdemeanor” is too vague for me to offer any real info. Most misdemeanors can be expunged after probation is over. For example, a DUI conviction can be expunged after about 5 years of perfect behavior and compliance with all terms of probation.

      But traffic infractions, which are what nearly all driving offenses are, are not expungeable from you DMV driver history report.

      Dont confuse criminal conviction expungement in court with trying to clear a DMV driver history report. They are different things.

  4. chris says:

    I was convicted on a petty theft charge back in 2007, completed all nessary administrative punishment community service but had probation suspended due to me joining the United States Marine Corps in 2007. I have deployed over seas 3 times serving this country and now currently in wounded Warrior Bn in NC. Now it is 6 years later and I am getting medically retired from the DOD and the VA and on the hunt for a job, to support my family. Is there a way that I can get this charge lifted off my record it is the only one I have had in my life and no other incidents not even a traffic violation since then.

  5. janis dolores says:

    I had a conviction for reckless driving expunged. Can I now answer no when asked on job applications if I have been convicted?

  6. Kimberly Hawkins says:

    Hello, I was wondering how to go about getting a misdemeanor for petty theft expunged/sealed? I was convicted in 2007. Thanks!

  7. tj says:

    I’m looking to have a DUI misdemeanor from IN that I received 9 years ago removed from my record. How do I go about doing this?

    • DZ says:

      I don’t know about IN, but in CA, a DUI is automatically removed from your record after 10 years.

      • DZ,

        Thanks for the comment, but you are wrong.

        A DUI conviction will not appear on your DMV driver history after 10 years, but the record of a criminal conviction remains visible to all courts and law enforcement pretty much forever.

        A DUI conviction older than 10 years cannot be used as a “prior offense” to increase penalties on a new DUI (in general) – but that does not mean a cagey attorney (or employer) with an Ipad cant find it – and the details of the court case.

        Right now, I can look up thousands of DUI case details older than 10 years on the San Diego County Superior Court’s web site. For free. From my Iphone.

  8. Toya says:

    Hi Chris,

    My friend is from Africa and his parents are U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, when he was born he did not meet the qualifications to be declared a U.S. citizen. He was in a bit of trouble in 2004. He was selling educational material door to door and was charged with “Peddaling without a business license.” He completed his one year probation sentence without any issues. He has tried to obtain citizenship, but with this showing on his record he was denied. He is a gainfully employed individual who has his MBA. His dream is to be a citizen. The state of CA did expunge his record but it still shows on FBI/criminal background checks. Any suggestions on what we could do to move forward in pursuing his citizenship?

  9. Carter says:


    Thanks for responding. That makes sense. The judge did sign the order for the expungment but again not the 17b. Just so im clear, would the court have to reopen the case, hear the 17b motion, make another ruling then expunge the misdemeanor? I’ll send you a private email, i may need you to hire you since im in AZ.
    Appreciate it.

  10. Carter says:

    Hi Chris.

    I plead guilty to a felony that is classified as a “wobbler” in CA. My previous attorney successfully filed the 1203.4 but failed to file a 17b with the court to get the felony reduced which we discussed prior to her going to court. I’ve called the court and in fact she checked the box indicating that this was a 17b case but I guess she needed to file the actual motion for the 17b. Two (2) years later I needed to get a fingerprint clearance card in AZ and found out I still have a felony on my record with the expunge asterisk. What do I do? File the 17b myself or ??

    Thanks in advance for your comments!

    • Carter,

      Great comment. Thank you! I get so sick of the routine “my relative was sick so I could not pay” comments.

      I actually had this problem before. Years ago. Resulted in a very pissed off client.

      The problem is this – in some courts, they will just do it all at once, super efficient. Check the box, boom, done. In other courts, they want 2 separate motions.

      But it also sounds like you never got all of the final orders. Filing is just the start. You have to get the judge to sign the orders granting the motion(s) also to complete the process.

      This problem is really something that the court could have just worked out for you. Probably.

      Usually the 17(b) has to be done first, logically. But yes, do it. Or hire someone to do it.

      But I also want to caution that you may not be looking at the right thing. If this is a government related background check (I do not know AZ law) – they may be allowed to consider what the original charges were, even it was later reduced after conviction.

      Pay attention to the details.

      But, if the court still lists it as a felony conviction, you should do the 17(b) motion again.

      Good question. I hope I gave some clarification.

  11. JJ says:

    Yes, you’re right! I asked the clerks at the courthouse about expungements and they sent me to the 3rd floor that is where they granted me access to look up my charges and thus, there were the three mentioned. They were so long ago i almost forgot about them. I printed it out and paid $120 per charge and they set up a separate date to go before a judge, i couldnt afford an attorney so i went alone, i thought i was going to have to explain but the minute the judge called me up he looked over the charges and granted me dismissals for each charge. He then told me “u need to understand that since these charges were when u were an adult it doesnt erase them completely but basically i put my signature on each dismissal form stating that i feel (as a judge) that u have changed your ways and are a good citizen since they were petty crimes and so long ago.” i completed my 5- year court probation and paid all my fines on time. No issues. I did apply for county jobs before and the app states that we need to mention expunged charges as well, which i did, i showed them the dismissal forms and they put me through background check. The investigator gave me a psych test which i was truthful on, then one on one with a psychiatrist to compare my answers to his questions….even though i was truthful i received a letter stating i failed the psych test and didnt get the job :-( i have an exposed firearm, taser, baton, pepper spray permits at the time (& i still do) but couldnt apply for another 3 years, in which i did! I applied but didnt even get called upon to go further in the hiring process even though im highly qualified. Im afraid i ruined my chances indefinitely now :-( but i keep applying, they now have all my records anyways and my dream of ever being a juvy or probation officer are shattered because of some mistakes i made when i was 18, i dont know what to do anymore? My major is administration of justice and im a semester away from getting my AA degree in that field, its too late to switch majors, i’ve applied in different counties now with no success, i think its unfair, im running out of ideas and need to find a career to support my family during the recession, but i appreciate your advice and to take time from your busy schedule :-) u are truely a blessing to do so, thank you

  12. JJ says:

    Sorry i know i threw a lot on u all at once but my question is if i apply for a juvenile hall officer or probational aide position in monterey county, would i have to mention my misdemeanor expungement charges? Or since they are expunged, can i choose not to mention them in my background check? The reason im asking is because u stated that applying for a federal level job or gov job our expungement charges would show no matter what but the jobs i mentioned are county jobs so would i need to mention charges?

    ….(continued), let me clarify that i paid $120 per charge to expunge each charge in 2006, i stood before the judge and he granted my expungement in all three charges. All three charges was when i was an adult of 18-19 yrs old back in ’96. Could i apply for those jobs without mentioning my expunged charges?

    • JJ,

      That is a good question. I want to tell you no, you do not have to disclose those expunged convictions on job applications. Normally that is the case.

      But I am afraid to say that in answer to this question because there are exceptions for some government jobs, and I cannot tell exactly what happened to your cases.

      Did you get a “certificate of rehabilitation” for each? And/or then a post conviction dismissal of each?

      Those are some of the many details that are important here.

      If you were paying me to answer this question – (you should pay some attorney to give you good advice here) I would tell you to bring all of your “expungement” and other court papers to me. I would review them, then contact the courts to verify the status of the convictions (and to see what other people can look up). Then I would carefully review the applications for the positions you are considering. Then I would review the language of the statute under which your relief was granted. After all of that (probably 3 actual hours worth of work), I would call you and tell you exactly what I recommend and why.

      You may or may not be able to do that work yourself.

      If you hired an attorney to do the expungements for you, you could probably contact that person and get an answer to your question in half of an hour.

      But if you only paid $120, for each, I can tell you did not have real legal help.

  13. JJ says:

    What if you had 3 charges from the ages of 18 and 19 1st: falsifying info to police, 2nd possession of marijuana less than half oz, 3rd: dui in 2002 sept? I paid $120 per charge and judge granted my expungement, now say i appy for a juvenile hall officer job or probational aide in monterey county, would i have to mention said charges on my backgroung check? Especially if i applied 4 yrs ago and mentioned charges then due to honesty? Or can i start a clean slate?

  14. danielle -Texas says:

    I would like to know if I could ever have a BMV class A Misdemeanor. Removed. I was 17 at the time
    I am now almost 33 and have given up on trying. I am by far a crimimal in any way. I carry myself welll, advocate, and volunteer within my neighborhood and raise my children in church etc. I am so tired of rejection on and off. After displaying the informatithey hire me then state they have to decline. I have student loans etc and just really think I have sacrificed half my life. All I had was probation and afine. The report shows 90days jail probation and fine. I didn’t go to jail and I think they see that and freak out. I am doomedfor life.

  15. Allan says:

    I got a Felony DUI in 2006. It was reduced to a misdemeanor. I was sentenced to probation & the SDSU DUI PROGRAM. 2 weeks into the classes my father was in a car accident and he had a severe brain injury & I went back east to care for him. I have returned to San Diego & went to the S.D. Clerk of Court & was told my case/records had already been purged. She told me to check with the DMV because there may be a hold on my drivers license. Sooo…I call the DMV made an appointment. I went to the DMV filled out a Drivers License Replacement form the clerk took my form, my money, my thumb print & my picture. She said thank you & gave me my receipt & a temporary paper license. That was 4 weeks & 3 days ago. Today my drivers license arrived. Is this NORMAL? Does this happen often???

    • Allan,

      Thank you for the good faith attempt at a good question.

      Let me first say I am totally willing to answer your question for free. I will make a good faith effort to help you. It may take a few replies.

      Before I do that I have to be rude to you. That’s how this works. You want free advice? I have to entertain everyone else reading at your expense. But no worries – it appears you used a fake name, which was smart.

      Dude! YOU DID NOT TELL ME WHAT THE PUCKING PROBLEM IS!!!!!!!!! Hello! Earth to Dude!!!! WTF, over?

      Here is your question:

      ” I was sentenced to probation & the SDSU DUI PROGRAM. 2 weeks into the classes my father was in a car accident and he had a severe brain injury & I went back east to care for him. I have returned to San Diego & went to the S.D. Clerk of Court & was told my case/records had already been purged. She told me to check with the DMV because there may be a hold on my drivers license. ”

      I hope your father is OK now. I am super sorry to hear that. I am super hopeful he was not injured by a drunk driver. I really, really hope you were not the one . . .

      BUT I AM ALSO 1000000% sick of HEARING ABOUT PEOPLE’s sick relatives!!!! MY GOD!! WTF, Over?

      Why is that relevant? I dont get it? What happened? What did your sick relative do to your court case? ANYTHING?

      PEOPLE: I AM SUPER, SUPER SICK OF HEARING ABOUT YOUR SICK RELATIVES! Sick relatives is not a defense to ANYTHING! stop it PLEASE! No More sick relative stories, PLEASE, PLEASE! I am going to quit this if I get 200 more of these . . . make that 199 more of these sick relative stories.

      OK _ having said all of that, what the PUCK IS THE PROBLEM WITH YOUR CASE please????????

  16. Joycelyn Rasted says:

    I have a misdemeanor conviction from over 10 years ago. I was young and stupid and the public defender gave me no help. I could have fought it I’ve been told but I just pled guilty. Anyways I want to start some health sciences coursed to become a nurse or EMT not sure which yet. It states that to enroll in these classes you need to pass a background check. I read that expungement may not help if you have to apply for state or government licenses which I’m sure I would have to. Any one have any ideas?

    • Joycelyn,

      Too bad it wasnt your attorney who told you that you could fight it. Is that your way of saying that if you had money at the time to pay “good” private attorney you would not have been convicted?

      Which kind of misdemeanor was it? Negligent Vehicular Homicide or possession of a dagger?

      • Joycelyn Rasted says:

        No attorney, the public defender did not listen to what I had to say. It was possession of a prescription drug without a prescription. One tylenol 3 on my passenger floorboard. I had no idea how it got there and if I were an addict it would have been gone already lol This little thing has screwed up many opportunities for me.

    • Joycelyn,

      Here is some useful info – if your conviction qualified for expungement, you should get it done ASAP for a lot of reasons. I cannot tell whether you would qualify. There are all sorts of different misdemeanors. Some are violent, some involve driving, some involve theft, sometimes destruction of property. I cant tell what you have here.

      Once a conviction is expunged, how it affects pre employment background checks will vary from employer to employer, and from conviction to conviction. Some employers may care a lot more about driving offenses that other things.

      Criminal case expungements do not affect DMV records in CA, in general.

  17. Timi says:

    I was found guilty of grand theft in Ca in 1984 . After spending 5 days in jail and 1 year of probation, the judge knocked the crime down to a misdemeanor. I became a positive role model in the community and started my own licensed child care business which required a fingerprint clearance card. On the application it asked about my crimminal history, I stated none (parent paid a lawyer to have it expunged). It went through with no problems. Then when it was time for renewel (after 911), it came back showing the crime from 1984. I went to the courthouse, the police department, the jail, etc and they could not find any record of my crime. Nothing! The DOJ in Sacramento is where the information came back from. I live in AZ and plan to move back to CA and i know they will pass my fingerprint card, but it is sad that I have to put this crime with a letter of explanation on every school application and or every teaching credential. Is expungement possible? Thanks

    • Timi says:

      I could not find the filed documents from the lawyer and when I searched for him he was no longer in business….

    • DortLaw says:


      If this were my problem, I would go to the court clerks office in person and check out the court file if there is one.

      Those records may have been destroyed by the court.

      If not, and you did not keep the paperwork showing expungment or a final “Certificate of Rehabilitation”, I really dont have any ideas for you.

  18. Linda says:

    I had a CA misdemeanor expunged about 12 years ago and this week I’m going to be called as a character witness of a friend. Will the procecutor be able to see my conviction and bring it up to use it against me? I’m not sure if asked if I’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime I’m supposed to say “no” or “yes” since it was expunged.

    Thank you for your answer.

    • DortLaw says:


      Interesting question.

      Is an expunged criminal misdemeanor conviction that was expunged relevant to the credibility of a character witness’ testimony in a criminal case?

      Wait. First question – can the prosecutor find it? Probably Yes.

      I guess it would probably depend on what type of crime it was. CMIT? Perjury? Theft? ….

      It might be relevant. But I cannot tell for sure. Judge can rule on that one. To complicated for me this am. It would take some real legal research to figure that one out.

      I’d say just be honest. Let them sort it out.

  19. PD says:

    I stupidly plead guilty to petty theft in ’04 at the age of 18. I didn’t know any better then but that is besides the point now. I want to get this expunged and have had a clean record since. Graduated from a University, etc. My current job was lenient in not really doing a thorough background check but I’m in the midst of changing careers and will definitely need this expunged. What are my chances of the judge agreeing to expungement? (I want to go into a career of health care / hospital related).

    • DortLaw says:


      This is a good comment. First I would say it may not have been stupid to plead guilty if you were guilty. Maybe, maybe not. Doesnt matter.

      This sounds like a good misdemeanor to expunge. without knowing all the facts, I’s say you are probably eligible. I’d recommend hiring an attorney to get it done right and efficiently. The cost of an attorney is really negligible for you when compared to the increase in your lifetime income that service may provide.

      How much would I charge for a misdemeanor expungement petition in a court that I like to work in? Like Monterey County? $1000 and a same day fresh whole halibut. I’ll keep that offer open until the end of halibut season.

      How much in Oakland, CA? It will cost more. Do you know where Flint’s BBQ is?

      Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

      Free Attorney Case Review

  20. Chris says:

    I had a battery misdemeanor in California. I just applied for Naturalization and was denied due to not having a good moral character. Would it help if I got this conviction expunged?

    • Chris says:

      By the way this misdemeanor was in 2010, fines have been paid DV classes are done and probation was terminated in October of 2011.

  21. Scott says:

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for your site and helping out with questions. Despite all of my research I’m still not sure what to expect when I apply for a new job. My 487 plea in 2000 was expunged in 2004. I did an intellius background check on myself and nothing showed up.

    But let’s say that I am considered for employment at a big company like Apple for instance. Do you know if they simply do a run of the mill intellius check, or similar service? Do do they want to fingerprint and pull criminal checks from DOJ? And at that point the felony conviction is revealed?

    Thank you for your consideration in answering this question.

  22. jay says:

    i just recently got my felony reduce to a misdemeanor and dismissed by the judge.
    i wanted to know if that dismissal is a good thing or do i have to expunge that still ?
    i dont know if the dismissal looks good on my behalf .
    let me know please thanks

  23. Rose says:

    I was charged with a misdemeanor 4 years ago, and I have a record that looks like this: DEFENDANT DISCHARGED FROM DEFERRED ADJUDICATION, NO CONTEST OR NOLO CONTENDERE (C) Misdemeanor class B. I finished probation. I stole weight loss pills from Walmart. worth like 60 dollars. All of this happened in Texas

    I want to get a green card and I have a bachelors degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, basically I am a teacher. I need to be certified and find a job, how can I get read of this for ever?

  24. Heather says:

    I was in a bar in Florida in 1996 and was arrested for a misdemeanor trespass/municipal violation because supposedly the bouncer told us to leave because he kept on making us move. So me and my friends were arrested and processed in Broward County for the night because supposedly the bouncer then told us to leave and we didn’t hear him. The DA called and said it would be a good idea to plead “no contest” because we could go to jail for a year. I was not formally represented by an attorney at the time. I consulted with a lawyer who just passed the bar. But obviously he did not advise me correctly. Can I get this arrest and conviction expunged or sealed because this is the only thing on my record and don’t want it to come up for pre-screening background checks. I did get a job at a bank after that in 2001 and it was not big deal to them. After that I had a job with a bank for 10 years. But now I am applying for jobs again and want it off my record because that is the only thing on there.

  25. Queen says:

    Hi Chris
    I was caught shoplifting from a store on 11/17/11 and the merchandises cost $80.00 and this is my first offense ever. I plead guilty, paid the fine and i was offer no jail time and no probation. I was fired from my first job but now i want to move out of state because i’m afraid that i won’t find a job anytime soon here. So, is this record going to show on my background check or my SSN even if i move out of state? Please help me. Thanks and have a blessed week.

  26. Don says:

    I am a nurse, and I had a misdemeanor expunged recently. Do I have to answer yes on applications that ask have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? The expungement says that the conviction will be changed to dismissed, however I am still unclear if I need to report having had a misdemeanor. Please help.

    • DortLaw says:


      You did not tell us where this is.

      But in general, once a CA misdemeanor conviction is correctly expunged, you can deny the conviction happened on most job applications. But you need to ask the attorney who helped you with it to get the details on your specific case.

      If you did not have an attorney help you, then this is an example of why sometimes paying for professional help is helpful.

      Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

      Free Attorney Case Review

  27. Brian says:

    I was convicted of a felony in California. I later had the conviction reduced to misdemeanor and dismissed (expunged). Was my felony removed/erased? Will it just reflect the misdemeanor as being the original conviction and never having a felony?

    What will show on a FBI/Law Enforcement Level I/II criminal history report?

    What will show on a (LiveScan) Employment background check?

    Thank you…..

  28. michelle says:

    Hi Chris, and thanks for the PSA. Question, I am a physician assistant and a very good one. Board scores in top 3 %, numerous award and newspaper articles. Log story short my good friend and I wrote each other prescriptions for narcotics, after I underwent 5 surgeries with metal and screws, in my ankle and 2 broken arms. Then, my mother died of cancer. Two weeks her mother passed suddenly. I had a high dollar fantastic attorney ( over a decade on prosecution and a decade on defense. Also on first name basis with the judge. I got just informal probation, no jail time and treatment case was automatically in a drug rehab, aborted early for good behavior). My case was automatically expunged. The court administer n LA sup court, Robert Ulander Wrote a letter making it abundantly clear that my certification, license or any other rights shall NOT be impacted, as with the expungement, the event “did not occur in the eyes of the law” Now the medical board is hasssling house and urinated in a cup ( and observed , for 18 my months. Can they just ignore the penal code????Not to mention I was awarded heroic measure in 2 newspapers WHILE serving my probation. This happened in 2007. What gives!!??

  29. Buzz says:

    I have a petty theft or felony , more than 10 years ago. I have no other issues after that.
    But I want to apply for a permanent resident.
    Can I Still work on my case for expungement?
    If so, how much time it will take to get it done?
    It happened in 2001, and I didn’t give my real name,
    will this affect to get my case expunged?

    • DortLaw says:


      I changed your name because this is bad, bad, bad.

      If you got convicted of a felony under false name you are completely screwed. Trying to get it expunged might just win you a free prison sentence as a bonus. And I am certain (assuming this is in the US) they have your finger prints. I have absolutely zero advice for you. I dont even understand how things like this happen. I’m not even going to tell you to hire an Attorney like I tell other people with questions I cant answer, because I dont want some poor unsuspecting attorney to get caught up in that mess. I wish I had something positive to say.

      It’s Sunday. Why in the world am I answering questions?

      Anyone else out there want to take this one?

      Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

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  30. Liz H. says:

    Hi Chris –

    Thank you so much for providing this information; it is a great public service for those of us challenged with hard economic times. I was caught shoplifting food (first offense) in a grocery store in Long Beach, CA several months ago. I am currently doing community service and was told at my court appearance that once I return to court with proof I have completed my community service the charge would be dismissed. I have the following questions:

    1) How quickly will this event show up on my record? Is it probably on there now? (I am applying for work and want to know what to expect).

    2) What is the difference between dismissal and expungement? I.e., after the charges are dismissed, will I still need to apply for expungement?

    3) How quickly will my record be amended after dismissal/expungement? Are we talking weeks? Months? and

    4) You indicate expungement doesn’t remove the conviction from your record, you just don’t have to mention it on an employment application. What difference does that make, since the company will doubtless be doing a background check and from your explanation it will still show up, even if labeled “expunged”?

    Thanks so much!

    – Liz

    • Liz H. says:

      One more: will any of this show up on a background check if I apply for a job in another state? Thanks again!

  31. Robyn Bell says:

    If you get caught stealing from Walmart Supercenters and they negotiate with you and tell you if you send $100.00 to the Attorney and make the payment they will not take you to court for it, what do you do when you are trying to find a job and you find out that they are still bringing up charges against you

  32. Rose H says:

    I have a public intoxication misdemeanor and disturbing the peace from when I was 18. I just had a background check for my internship to finish grad school and these things came up. I want to get them removed because it looks extremely unprofessional. Reading you page makes it seem like it won’t be a problem, I paid the fine and don’t have any other criminal history. Would you still recommend having a lawyer do it? I am pretty savvy with paper work.

  33. Andrew says:

    I am 19 years old and I was caught shop lifting two rings worth $10 and the other $20 for my girlfriend. I was not charged a ticket but just a court date. This is the first thing to ever be on my record and I fear can hurt me bad in the furture if I dont get it Expunged. This whole experiance has scared me shitless without a dout. I plan on joing the coast guard in 3 years and have a future in business and real estate. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get this expunged but I dont have much money. I am also job searching right now and fear how this will effect me getting a job soon. Everything I have read helps but what should I do to make sure this gets handled as soon as posible?

    • Andrew,

      Good comment. I have no idea where this is, but I can definitely tell you a few things that will help:

      1) understand that this is a problem for your planned future, so take care if it right;
      2) pay close attention to what is going on; read everything closely, calendar any dates and times you have. Stay on top of it. this is a good start, actually.

      Here is some info to help you understand what is going on:

      A. Engagement happens after a conviction, and after probation. So forget about that for now. You have not had your first court date yet. You are not convicted yet.
      B. Assuming this is a misdemeanor, (find out), either hire an attorney or ask for a public defender at your first court date if you are broke.
      C. Try to avoid a theft conviction as a title if possible. (This is why you need an attorney’s help – even if it is the public defender attorneys).

      If you are forced to plead guilty to theft, or if you get convicted for theft after a trial, then after your sentence is completely, apply for the engagement.

      Take care of it as best you can, stay on top of everything, keep copies of everything, and it will work out in the end.

      You might be able to avoid a theft conviction if you pay attention and get help.

  34. I have a reckless driving in my record,its over 2 years and it happen in Orlando,Florida. I was in probation for six months, also I pay all the fines. Now I live in New York City,and I want to know, if I qualify for a Expungement so I can get a good job,,.I have a CDL class A license.

    Please help me.

    Thank you for ur time.

  35. Stan Taylor says:

    about 9 years ago I was convicted of a second degree burglary. I WAS YOUNG AND DUMB AND MADE A BAD MISTAKE!!!. Unfortunately, I also got some probation violations without any new convictions here and there. However, I did complete my probation and it terminated. I apllied for an 1203.4 and 17b, 2 years ago and it got denied because of the reasons stated above. do you think I may have another chance if i send the judge support letters on my behalf and refile again? Thanks

    • Stan, if a petition for expungement is denied, you can apply again later. I once had a judge tell me to come back in two years, and I did, then he grated my petition for a client with a serious offense. What you need to do is demonstrate that you have been rehabilitated. Letters will help, as well as a track record of employment, strong family life, etc. You want a “Certificate of Rehabilitation”, so you have to prove that is what you are. Getting a good lawyer’s help is probably worth the money to you – because your economic potential is greater without a Felony Conviction visible to employers.

  36. james ingrum says:

    i have some traffic tickets and need to get one off cause it is causing me some hard ship with my job. Can i get it expunged?

    • I guess what you are really saying is that you were convicted of a moving violation that is on your DMV driver history report and that your employer has a problem with that entry on the report. Do you want to know if there is a way to get it off of the DMV Report?

      Generally, only criminal convictions in court can be “expunged” at the court. However, the DMV of your locale probably has “discretionary power” to remove a record from your driver history report. Call the DMV to find out if your moving violation can be removed. Most DMVs will remove violations from the drivers history after a specified amount of time passes, usually 5 years. If it is a brand new violation that you have not appeared in court for yet – try to get a traffic school referral which will prevent a point from being added to your DMV history.

  37. Richard Walker says:

    I have 2 misdemeanor convitions from 1998 (I was 19 years old and full of testosterone!) One is for petty theft and the other for battery. I have not had any other problems until this year and I now have a misdemeanor concealed weapons charge (in Oakland) for transporting a weapon (registered to me) without a case and lock. Big mistake, but definitely not malicious! I would like to expunge the old convictions and prevent anything from showing on this current case…what can I do? Like I said, no other problems, family man, member of church…HELP!


    Most non violent misdemeanor convictions can be “expunged” or dismissed from the courts records in California cases once a convicted criminal has completed probation, and stayed out of trouble long enough that the court is convinced the person has been “rehabilitated” from the behavior that lead to the conviction.

    To get this done, a defendant must file a Petition for a Post Conviction Dismissal of the case (Expungement). Judges have discretion to grant to deny the petition based upon ther defendants record. Usually, a defendant must have stayed out of trouble to get the petition granted by the court. Because of this, picking up a new case involving a fire arm may disqualify you. However, whether or not the new case causes a problem cannot be determined until it is resolved finally. It may get dismissed, and not cause a problem, or lead to a new conviction that would cause a problem.

  38. Jeff dugas says:

    Can an old { 10+ years ] felony WARRANT be expunged ?

    Answer: No. You cannot “Expunge” a warrant. Only a conviction can be expunged. A warrant means the case is still pending, and an expungement can only happen after a conviction, after the case is completely over, and after the defendant has stayed out of trouble for a number of years. If you have a warrant from a pending case, you need to take care of the case way before it can be expunged – and having a warrant issued is not a good place to start.
    Attorney C. Dort: Email :

  39. RE: Mel Gibson’s Record Wiped Clean. Thanks for the link. Getting an expungement for a misdemeanor DUI in CA is a relatively straight forward process that can usually be done for around $1500 (my fee) and 2 court appearances. Court fee is around $100. I provide free case reviews for expungements, and am happy to answer questions for free.

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