Does Your Criminal Record Clear After 7 Years latest 2023

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The Injustice Of California’s Record Sealing Statute

If you were arrested and tried for a crime when there was not even “reasonable cause” to believe you committed the crime, you may end up with a criminal record that may prevent you from getting a employment, housing, volunteering in your children’s classroom, and other basic things that those with a clean record can do. All of this damage is from a crime you obviously didn’t commit.

California Sealing of Records Act, Penal Code Section 851.8. is designed to prevent this gross injustice by allowing those found innocent to have all records of the arrest and court case sealed and destroyed. In most situations, the law successfully balances the state’s right to preserve information with an individual’s right to preserve his or her reputation. However, in a large number of situations, the wrongfully accused suffer lifelong damages from the records of arrests or court cases where they were factually innocent, but the law allows the records to be sealed.

The California Department of Justice (CDOJ) keeps a complete criminal history of every person who has ever been arrested or charged in court with a criminal offense. This report is commonly referred to as a roadmap or background report. Among other things, the rap sheet indicates the date, place and reason for the arrest or trial. Even if a person is found innocent or the charges are dropped, the record of the arrest and any court cases is shown on the individual’s criminal record.

Unlike reports kept by the credit bureaus or the Department of Motor Vehicles, which only show a negative history for a limited number of years, once something appears on the CDOJ rap sheet, it stays forever; unless the individual successfully requests that the record of the arrest and trial be sealed. A successful petition to have a sealed record wiped with any evidence of the arrest or court case of the CDOJ rap sheet.

The CDOJ will only release the rapsheet to authorized state agencies for limited purposes or to the person who requests their own rapsheet by filing a petition, submitting fingerprints, and paying a nominal fee (which may be canceled for people who cannot pay the fee). Despite an apparent attempt to keep the rapsheet from public disclosure, rapsheets are widely used for private purposes. According to a 2006 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 80% of medium to large employers conducted criminal background checks to screen potential employees. That’s a 26% increase from 1996. Rap ​​sheets are often required by a wide range of other individuals and organizations, from homeowners to minor leaguers.

The information on the rap sheets often determines which candidate gets things like housing, employment, or the ability to interact with their children. No law in California prevents these decisions from being made based on arrests or charges for which the person was in fact innocent. Accordingly, it is good public policy that rap sheets be accurate and free of information that would wrongfully prejudice an individual. California’s Sealing of Records Act gives the most wrongfully accused citizens a way to cleanse their rap sheet of negative information.

The procedure is set forth in Section 851.8 states:

“In all cases where a person has been arrested and an indictment has been filed, but no conviction has been entered, the defendant may, at any time after the action has been dismissed, request to the court which dismissed the action to find that the accused is factually innocent of the charges for which the arrest was made.”

If the individual is successful, the statute states:

“The court also orders the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the offense and the Department of Justice to request the destruction of any arrest records they have given to any agency, person or local, state, or federal entity.Each state or local agency, person or entity of the State of California receiving such a request shall destroy its arrest records and the request for destruction of such records, except as directed contrary to this section.

One of the major problems is that this law does not expressly authorize the partial sealing of an arrest file. Courts have yet to interpret PC 851.8 as authorizing “the surgical excision of portions of arrest records”. People c. Matthews 7 CA 4th 1052 (1992). So if a person charged with two crimes is found innocent of one crime and guilty of the other, no part of the case file can be sealed. Consider this scenario that leads to an unfair and unexpected outcome:

A couple has a heated argument. A neighbor who fears violence calls the police. When the police arrive, one of the suspects, enraged, falsely accuses the other of sexual assault. The police arrest the accused for sexual assault and disturbing public order. An hour later, the accuser calms down, loses his anger and retracts to the police. The wrongful charge of sexual assault is never filed in court. However, the accused goes to court and pleads guilty to a public order misdemeanor and is fined $200. Unbeknownst to this defendant, and most defendants, is that there is another sentence they will have in perpetuity. Every time someone else looks at their criminal record, they will see that the accused was arrested on a sexual assault charge. The defendant will have to spend his life hoping people will believe the explanation of the negative story on the rap sheet and dealing with the likelihood of it causing unfair prejudice.

This unfair and unexpected outcome harms the individual and society by placing great lifelong obstacles in the way of a person trying to reach their personal and professional potential.

The legislative history clearly shows that Parliament deemed it unjust for a citizen to be burdened with an arrest record for a crime that was not committed. There is nothing in the plain language of the law or in the logic to suggest that the legislature would tolerate the unjust burden of a charge simply because the defendant is justly burdened with a separate charge.

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