Record cleaning: Arrest with no conviction

Information about who can ask to have their arrest record sealed and the different options to consider depending on your situation.

Who qualifies and what can be sealed

If you had an arrest that did not result in a conviction, you may be able to seal your case under Penal Code section 851.91. This applies to any of the following situations:

  • You were arrested but no charges were filed
  • You were arrested and charged, but the charges were dismissed
  • You completed diversion and the charges were dismissed
  • You completed “DEJ” (deferred entry of judgment) and the charges were dismissed
  • You went to trial and were found not guilty

You may request that a court seal your arrest records or criminal records. If a judge agrees with your request, the records will no longer be available to the public. However, some government agencies will still be able to see your sealed record.

NOTE: Your arrest may have already been automatically sealed by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) under Penal Code section 851.93. If so, you may not need to ask the court to seal your arrest—although there may be additional benefits to doing so. If you want to know if your arrest has already been sealed, you can request your Record of Arrest and Prosecution (RAP) sheet from the DOJ, but this is not required.

How to ask to seal your record

illustration of some paper forms with signature

To request sealing, you can use Petition to Seal Arrest and Related Records (Form CR-409), which is translated into ChineseKoreanSpanish, and Vietnamese.

If the order is granted, the judge will use the CR-410 order form.

Not all arrests qualify for relief. Get information in Form CR-409-INFO, also available in ChineseKoreanSpanish, and Vietnamese.
If the judge grants your request, the arrest and court records will be sealed. But government agencies, like law enforcement, will still have access to them. You must still disclose the arrest when asked about it in applications for public office, for employment as a peace officer, or for a state or local license. You must also disclose the arrest if you are contracting with the California State Lottery Commission.

Diversion Programs

  • If you completed a pre-filing diversion program run by the prosecutor, you can ask to seal the arrest records under Penal Code section 851.87.
  • If you had charges dismissed after you completed a diversion program, you can ask to seal the records under Penal Code section 1001.9.
  • If you had charges dismissed after you completed a drug diversion program, you can ask to seal the records under Penal Code section 851.90.

Factual Innocence

If you were factually innocent, the judge can order the arrest records sealed and destroyed.

Factual innocence can be difficult to prove. You will need to convince the judge that there was no reason for the officer to arrest you. If no charges were filed or charges were dismissed before trial, you can use the California Department of Justice’s Petition to Seal and Destroy Adult Arrest Records (BCIA 8270). Some courts also have local forms you can use.

There is no statewide form. If you were found not guilty at trial (Penal Code section 851.85) or if you were convicted but the judge set aside the conviction because you were factually innocent (Penal Code section 851.86), the attorney who represented you at trial might be able to file the request to seal and destroy the records.

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