Expungement vs. Petition to Seal an Arrest

A criminal record creates a number of negative consequences for those who remain in the state of California and those who move to another state.  It does not matter if the criminal record is for an arrest, a conviction or both.  Everyone from prospective landlords to employers has the right to ask job and rental applicants if they have been convicted of or arrested for a criminal offense.  Those who respond in the affirmative to questions about convictions or arrests can be denied employment as well as housing.

The silver lining to the gloomy situations detailed above is that it is possible to have a conviction or arrest expunged from a personal record.  Let our attorneys handle your record expungement or the petition for the sealing of your arrest and you will find life is that much easier in a number of regards.  Let’s take a look at the basics of expungement and sealing, compare the two and help readers in need of legal assistance get an idea as to which approach is optimal. Read this article in its entirety and you will have a good understanding of both options that empowers you to make a truly informed decision with the assistance of our attorney.


Expungement is a process in which arrest and conviction records are sealed.  Nearly every state in the country has passed laws that empower individuals to expunge arrests as well as convictions from personal records.  Details differ by state yet the majority of state laws are written so that once the arrest or conviction is expunged, it does not have to be disclosed to prospective employers and landlords.  As an example, if you are convicted of a crime such as petty theft and reach out to our record expungement attorneys to have the conviction expunged, you will have solid legal footing and a full understanding of the best approach.  In such a hypothetical situation, it is in your interest to answer in the negative when asked whether you have been convicted of any type of criminal offense.

The importance of your criminal record cannot be overstated.  Criminal records follow people across their entire lifetime, affecting everything from the ability to secure gainful employment to continuing with higher education or even having the opportunity to ink your name on the dotted line of an apartment lease.  Even if the criminal case does not cause a conviction, the record of arrest and criminal prosecution still exists. 

Furthermore, the process referred to as expungement allows for the criminal file to be completely removed from the public record.  You need a proven record expungement attorney on your side to understand the nuances of laws pertaining to expungement, including the different types of offenses that can be expunged and the procedure necessary for expungement.


Record expungement spurs the physical destruction of an individual’s records.  It is also possible to have the records returned directly to the individual seeking the expungement.  As noted below, the petitioner’s name is redacted from all public records and official indexes after the expungement.  The redaction empowers the individual arrested for misdemeanor offenses ranging from assault and battery to possession of marijuana or retail theft.  Certain felony arrests can be erased off an individual’s criminal background in a permanent manner.

The state of California is well aware of the fact that arrest records can be reviewed by organizations ranging from educational institutions to prospective employers and law enforcement.  As long as you qualify under expungement guidelines, it is possible to clear your record. Once your record is cleared, you will have no trouble finding a place to live and employment. 


Record expungement is not the only option. It is also possible for records of criminal cases to be sealed. However, the defendant must petition to seal the arrest with the assistance of a savvy attorney. A sealing of records means no one is allowed to view the contents of the individual’s file unless possessing a court order. The main difference between sealing a record and expunging a criminal record is the fact that sealed records remain in existence.  The record exists tangibly as well as in a legal manner.  

Expungement is the deletion of a record that shows the arrest or criminal charge occurred in the first place.  The standard procedure is for juvenile criminal proceedings records to be sealed on the day the individual in question reaches 18 years of age.  The same is true for additional criminal cases involving juveniles.  However, such records remain accessible through a court order.

In many instances, record sealing is basically the same exact thing as expungement.  In other situations, record sealing has the potential to fully destroy every single record of the arrest and resulting conviction.  The main difference between a petition to seal an arrest and expungement hinges on the state in question. Do not assume it is only California law that is important as people have become quite transient as time has progressed. 

True expungement, if provided, leads to the full destruction of the criminal record.  In layman’s terms, this means every record pertaining to the arrest and all court case information is completely removed from the public record.  All court case information and arrest records are removed from public record in their entirety.  If a proper expungement occurs, no party (including the judge) is provided access to criminal records as these records have been completely erased.  Record sealing does not fully eliminate the criminal record as occurs with a record expungement.  Rather, a petition to seal an arrest is meant to shift the record away from the view of the public and limit access to a small number of government agencies.


A sealing of one’s record allows for the criminal record to be fully closed from public access.  Once the arrest is sealed, no one is permitted to access or maintain the record in a digital or physical manner but the individual in question.  However, there is a chance a sealed record can be viewed if the court is willing to grant a request for public view.  Absent such a court order, the petitioner’s name will be redacted from all official indexes and public records.  However, the courts and law enforcement agencies will still be able to access the records along with other entities and even employers as permitted by law. 

The sealing of a criminal record makes sense as everyone should be able to protect their right to obtain employment and housing regardless of alleged infractions that occurred years or even decades ago.  Petition the court to seal your arrest and/or criminal record and you will find obtaining employment and housing really is that much easier. Our attorney is here to help you every step of the way.


Record expungement provides a fresh start yet not everyone is eligible for this legal action.  If you have been convicted or arrested, the most important action you can take is hiring an attorney.  Your record expungement attorney understands the idiosyncrasies of the jurisdiction’s unique expungement procedures.  Meet with our record expungement attorney and you will have the opportunity to pick the brain of a legal mastermind.  This is your chance to ask questions pertaining to record expungement as a legal tool and the procedure necessary for expungement to occur.

Clients often ask our record expungement attorney when expungement will be available.  In most cases, expungement is only available after the individual in question has completed serving the sentence.  This includes the term of probation as well.  However, if there is sufficient reason, the judge might decrease the probation period to allow for an early expungement.  Clients also tend to be curious as to whether the specific offense qualifies for expungement.  As an example, the jurisdiction might permit expungement solely for arrests and/or misdemeanor convictions yet not permit an expungement of felony convictions.

The expungement process does not mandate the hiring of an attorney yet those who fail to lean on an attorney find this process proves egregiously difficult.  Courts have multiple forms available with titles such as Motion for Expungement yet the average person is almost certain to make an error that jeopardizes his or her chances for expungement.  The bottom line is the assistance of a record expungement attorney will be necessary to emerge with the desired result.  It is important to note even if your conviction is ultimately expunged, there is still a chance it will be accessible to certain parties.  As an example, certain licensing boards and police departments might be able to find out if a job seeker’s records have been expunged.


Those convicted of a crime in the state of California, be it a felony or misdemeanor, should know the worst thing to do is sit idle, hoping no one will make the effort to view the record.  The sad truth is employers, landlords and other parties are ready and willing to discriminate against those who made one or several mistakes in the past.  Meet with our record expungement attorney and we will work tirelessly to permanently remove the conviction from your record.  The filing for a petition for expungement/dismissal of the criminal conviction in the state of California involves the filing of a petition with the court where the conviction occurred.  This filing is conducted in accordance with section 1203.4 of the California Penal Code.  Such an action re-opens the case, puts the no contest plea and conviction to the side (or even the trial jury’s factual finding of guilt) and completely dismisses the case.  This process usually takes a couple of months. 

Ask for assistance from our legal team and we will do everything in our power to fast-track the process.  The court in which the case was filed plays a significant part in determining the length of the process.  Certain courts approve such requests faster than others.  As an example, Van Nuys Court processes such petitions in as little as two weeks.  Some courts are egregiously slow and have an average petition for expungement process of two months.  Long Beach court is infamous for taking longer than just about every other court in California. Lean on our record expungement attorney and we will do everything in our power to ensure the expungement occurs as soon as possible from the point of filing.

The defendant will not be considered to be convicted of the crime after the court grants the requested expungement.  The criminal conviction is supplanted with a statement that reads along the lines of: Dismissed in accordance with California’s Penal Code.  It is important to mention Californians who have their record expunged are not guaranteed to have the right to own a gun.  Furthermore, expunging a record and petitioning for the sealing of an arrest is only recognized by the state of California as this is the state in which the expungement is granted.  After all, such petitions are created by each unique state so there is no reason for the federal government to recognize them.  This nuance is precisely why gun rights are not provided following the expungement of a felony conviction.


A Certificate of Actual Innocence is the most powerful means of expungement.  Such a certificate does more than simply seal the prior record.  This certificate proves the record should not have existed in the first place.  As an example, consider an individual arrested for vandalizing a building with spray paint.  For whatever reason, the charges are dropped at a later date.  Alternatively, this individual could be charged with vandalism, head to trial and be found not guilty.  It is possible to obtain a certificate that establishes the individual in question is factually innocent of the offense in question.


In most jurisdictions, juvenile offenders and those arrested or even convicted for drug crimes have that much of an easier route to expungement.  Juvenile offenders are those arrested or convicted of a crime before the age of 18.  These individuals typically find it is that much easier to get their criminal records sealed or expunged.  This is typically an option when the individual in question reaches 18 years of age and he or she has otherwise avoided trouble with the law.


If you are considering a record expungement or a petition to seal arrest, reach out to Record Expungement Attorney today.  Give us a call at 714-587-5907 to schedule a consultation.