Did you know that one in three Californians has a criminal history? The American justice system holds that every defendant is innocent unless proven guilty. However, far too many people who have been arrested but never convicted of a crime are prevented from obtaining the employment, housing, and educational opportunities they deserve simply because of the social stigma of their arrest record. Thankfully, California law allows many individuals to pursue a clean slate through sealing of arrest records and expungement of convictions for those who have abided by the law in the time since they were sentenced.

At Lamano Law Office, we want to help you seal your arrest record and protect your good name and your future. Our all-women criminal defense team has a combined 30-plus years of experience helping people in your position get the justice they deserve. That’s why our firm is rated #1 on Yelp  for criminal defense in the Oakland area and why we have a 100 percent record of five-star client ratings on Google. We will always treat you with the respect you deserve as we work to resolve your case and protect your rights and freedoms.

If you were arrested or charged with a crime but were not convicted, either by a diversion program, deferred entry of judgment, or acquittal at a trial, please reach out to our firm today for a consultation with an Oakland expungement attorney about the opportunity to seal your arrest record. We look forward to clarifying your options, helping you to move forward with your life, and restoring your reputation. You don’t need to suffer the burdens and stigma that often gets attached to an arrest record.

What Are the Benefits of Sealing an Arrest Record?

Even if you were never convicted of a crime, your arrest record alone may be enough for prospective employers, landlords, higher education programs, or financial institutions to deny you the opportunities you deserve. This is especially true if the arrest was something that makes you look like you are not trustworthy such as theft, or that you may be violent because you were accused of domestic violence, assault or battery, or even worse, some type of abuse against the elderly or a child.

By successfully petitioning to have your arrest record sealed, your record cannot be accessed by the public and will not show up on background checks conducted for employment, housing, school admissions, or insurance applications. The arrest is legally deemed to have never occurred in the first place.

In addition, if a prospective employer, landlord, state licensing agency, school, or insurer asks you if you have been arrested, you may lawfully answer “no” with respect to any arrest whose record you have had sealed.

Note that some arrests will still be available to government agencies like local police departments, the CIA, and FBI. This is especially true if you are seeking employment in law enforcement or government security.

What Is PC 851.91? (The CARE Act)

California Penal Code 851.91, also known as The CARE Act, went into effect at the beginning of 2018. The statute amended various provisions of the penal code to make it easier for individuals to seal the record of an arrest on charges for which they were never convicted. Previously, individuals could only seal the record of their arrest after proving in court that they were “factually innocent” of the charged offense, even if they were never convicted of a crime.

PC 851.91 allows for an individual to request to seal their arrest record as a matter of right. The court can only decline a petition to seal an arrest record if an applicant is not eligible for this opportunity or if the prosecutor’s office proves to the court that sealing the record would not serve the interests of justice.

How to Seal Your Arrest Record under PC 851.91

Our firm can pursue the process of sealing your arrest record under PC 851.91 by taking the following steps:

  • We will need to obtain a copy of your arrest record, which contains information you need to include on your formal petition to the court. We can obtain this copy from the police department or law enforcement agency that arrested you. If you received a detention only certificate in the mail, this will be helpful to your case. If you did not live at the address listed on your driver’s license at the time of your arrest, you may have not received this because you did not have access to delivered mail.
  • Our firm will need to prepare a formal petition to seal your arrest record. The petition must include your name and date of birth, the date of your arrest, the city and county where your arrest took place, the name of the law enforcement agency that arrested you, any case or court numbers associated with your arrest, the alleged offenses that you were arrested for, or the charges that were filed against you following your arrest, and an explanation of why you are entitled to have your arrest record sealed as a “matter of right” or why sealing your record would serve the “interests of justice.”  Lamano Law Office can help you obtain these records.
  • We will file your petition in the court where any criminal charges arising from your arrest were heard or the court for the county where your arrest took place.
  • Our firm will serve copies of your petition to the necessary parties including the court, the district attorney’s office, and the probation department that will do a check to ensure you are not currently on probation or that you have successfully completed probation.

The court will schedule a hearing within 60-90 days of your petition having been served to all parties. At the hearing, the prosecutor can present evidence and arguments in opposition to your petition and we can also present evidence in support of your petition. The court will then evaluate your petition and any presented evidence to determine if sealing your arrest record would serve the best interests of justice. Generally, if you hire an attorney to do this for you, you will not need to be present in court.

If you have multiple arrests on your record that are eligible to be sealed, we will need to file a separate petition for each individual arrest on your behalf.

Are You Eligible to Have Your Arrest Record Sealed Under PC 851.91?

PC 851.91 allows you to seal an arrest record as a “matter of right” if any of the following circumstances apply to your criminal arrest:

  • You were arrested, but no charges were filed
  • All criminal charges that were filed were ultimately dismissed before trial
  • You were acquitted or found not guilty at trial
  • You were convicted, but your conviction was reversed or vacated by an appellate court
  • The charges against you were dismissed following your successful completion of a diversion or a deferred entry of judgment program

However, even if any of these circumstances apply to you, you may still be deemed ineligible to seal your arrest record if:

  • Criminal charges stemming from your arrest can still be filed against you, either because the statute of limitations has not expired or the city or district attorney has been granted the right to refile charges against you.
  • You were charged with a criminal offense that has no statute of limitations, such as murder, and you were not acquitted at trial or found factually innocent of the crime.
  • You intentionally evaded prosecution following your arrest.
  • You have a history of multiple convictions for domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse, defined as two or more convictions or five or more arrests within three years.

In the last case, we may still be able to convince a court to seal your arrest record if you can show that doing so would serve the “interests of justice.”

Who Can See My Arrest After My Record Is Sealed?

While PC 851.91 can allow for the sealing of your arrest record, it does not delete or destroy it. The record continues to be accessible by certain government agencies for limited purposes. State and federal judiciaries, law enforcement agencies, licensing boards, and certain other agencies may be entitled to see your arrest record or learn of your arrest. Your arrest record, or the fact of your arrest, may be accessed:

  • By the district attorney’s office, city attorney, or US attorney if you are prosecuted in the future for another criminal offense
  • If criminal justice agencies need to access your record in the regular course of their duties. These exceptions often apply when a state department of corrections needs to access information of a newly incarcerated individual’s criminal history
  • If you run for public office, apply for employment as a law enforcement or police officer, apply for any state or local licenses, or enter a contract with the California State Lottery Commission, you must disclose your record

Ready to Seek Greater Peace of Mind? Contact Our Oakland Attorneys Now

If you were arrested for an alleged criminal offense or charged with a crime for which you were not convicted, you deserve to have a clean record that allows you to pursue your rights and opportunities free from social stigma.

At Lamano Law Office, we’re committed to getting people in your position the justice and the peace of mind they deserve. That’s why we’re the #1 criminal defense firm in the Oakland area on Yelp and why we’ve got a 100 percent five-star rating on Google. Contact us today for a confidential consultation with an Oakland criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. We look forward to speaking with you.