BENEFITS OF SEALING ARREST RECORDS
The most obvious benefits of having one’s arrest records sealed is that it opens up more employment opportunities and activities. Employers usually conduct background checks to determine whether their potential employees are law-abiding. An arrest record is reason to exclude an individual for potential employment. Sealing one’s records makes them eligible for professional certificates, licenses, loan application and housing relief.
Despite the benefits of sealing arrest records, those arrested or charged for misconduct may face a difficult journey trying to prove why their records should be sealed. The burden of proof falls on the defendant to show that they have faced hardships as a result of such a record and evidence of rehabilitation. People who wish to have their records sealed are advised against seeking such action without legal advice. Californians should also keep in mind that a sealed record does not mean complete discretion. The record can still be used against you when facing future charges. These records are also accessible to the criminal justice agency for reference and periodical assessment. Moreover, the law requires people who have had their records sealed to disclose the record information to a public office, peace officer employment position, and state licensing. People who wish to have their records sealed are advised against seeking such action without legal advice since the process requires vast knowledge and experience in criminal law.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO DO THIS?
You may file an application for sealing the record of an arrest or detention within two years of that arrest or detention. If that two-year mark has passed, a judge is not required to hear your case but may consider it based on good cause.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
The process for requesting the sealing of your records involves different steps depending on the circumstances.
If you were arrested but no charges were filed, the first step is to contact the law enforcement agency involved in your case. For example, if you were arrested by the Long Beach Police Department, you would begin by appealing to them. Once you petition that particular agency, they have the right to decide in favor of, or against your sealing request. If they agree that you are factually innocent, they will seal the arrest record in question for three years. After that period of time has passed, they will destroy the record. If the law enforcement agency does not find in your favor or does not respond within 60 days of your petition, you will need to move on to a different tactic – appealing to a court with jurisdiction.
However, if the record you are interested in sealing is connected to a case during which you were acquitted by a jury, or if your case was dismissed after charges were filed, then you must skip the police department and proceed directly to petitioning the court. Once that is done, if the judge believes you are factually innocent, he will order the records sealed and eventually destroyed.
DO I NEED A LAWYER TO TAKE CARE OF SEALING AND DESTROYING MY ARREST RECORDS?
A experienced attorney will make the process go more smoothly. The applicant carries a burden to prove his or her innocence. A lawyer can help by thoroughly researching your case and making sure you’ve completed all the necessary paperwork in a timely and accurate manner. The police and/or the judge have the right to review police reports and other evidence that may sway them towards making a decision that’s not in your favor. If you hired an attorney to help you navigate this process, you’ll have an expert advocate who will help persuade the law enforcement agency or judge that you were wrongly accused. This task can be rather intimidating for an average person with no legal training.
WHO CAN SEE MY RECORDS AFTER THEY ARE SEALED?
In short, the answer is no one. If your records are ordered legally sealed, you can accurately say that you have never been arrested for a crime. This means if an employer asks that question, there is nothing to which you must admit. As far as the courts are concerned, you do not have an arrest record after sealing the record of it.
Not only can this help you with securing a job but it may also make it easier to find a place to live, or even to get accepted to college or other educational programs. It’s well worth the time it takes to fill out the paperwork, and the cost of hiring an attorney will seem minimal compared to the feeling of freedom and relief when that arrest record disappears from your life.