How To Seal Your Arrest Records in Los Angeles

In California, innocent people wrongfully arrested have a unique opportunity to have their arrest records sealed and destroyed by filing a Petition for Factual Innocence, under California Penal Code section 851.8. This petition must be filed whithin two years from the date of arrest or the filing of a criminal complaint, whichever is the most recent. If you succeed in sealing your arrest records, you can legally answer “no” whenever asked by anyone if you were previously arrested.


This unique opportunity is available to people in the following circumstances:

  • You were arrested, but no criminal charges were filed;
  • You were charged with a crime, but the charges were later dropped;
  • You were charged, went to trial, and were found “not guilty” by a jury.

There is one critical factor in being eligible for sealing your arrest records - You cannot have been convicted of the crime you were arrested for. The appropriate legal remedy for someone with a conviction is an Expungment under Penal Code section 1203.4. See California Expungments.

The Process for Sealing Your Arrest Records

The first step in sealing your arrest record is to file the Petition with the arresting law enforcement agency. If your attorney can convince that agency you were factually innocent (i.e. actually innocent), then the arresting agency will seal your arrest records for three years. After the three years, they will destroy your records.

If the arresting agency denies your petition or fails to respond in 60 days, we go to the second ste: filing your petition with the Superior Court which had or would have had, jurisdiction over the matter. A copy of the petition should also be served on the prosecutor's office at least 10 days before the hearing.

At the hearing, the burden is on the petitioner (person filing the petition) to prove that he or she is factually innocent of the crime. Factually innocent means actual innocence. In other words, the petitioner must prove there is no reasonable cause to believe the petitioner committed the crime. The petitioner may introduce any evidence that supports their innocence, including declarations, affidavits, police reports and other evidence that is relevant. The prosecutor can challenge the petitioner's claims by introducing evidence, such as the arrest report and the arresting officer's testimony to disprove the petitioner's claims. After hearing both sides, the judge will grant or deny the petition for Factual Innocence.

If the petition is granted, the judge will issue a court order directing the police department, prosecutor's office and the California Department of Justice to seal and destroy the arrest records and all related documents, leaving no trace of the arrest. This means that all prospective employers, or anybody else will never see or know of your arrest.

Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help

Having a criminal record can affect your employment, career opportunities, and your personal life. If you were wrongfully arrested and you want to remove that arrest from your background consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The criminal defense lawyers at Stephen G. Rodriguez and Partners bring over 75 years of combined criminal law experience to the table and will put that experience to work for you. Don't let a wrongful arrest haunt you. A successful Petition for Factual Innocence allows you to make a fresh start.

Call us at 213-481-6811 to discuss your legal situation and learn if you are eligible to Petition for Factual Innocence.