If you have been arrested or convicted of a crime, you may be able to have it cleared from your record. If you were found to be under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court as a minor, you may have that cleared from your record. This process is "setting aside" your arrest or conviction or "expunction." If you complete this process, you can treat the arrest, conviction, or juvenile court contact as if it never happened. In other words, if the conviction is set aside, you may state on any job application that you were not arrested or convicted of that crime. Remember that people can still find out about the arrest or conviction if they look in the right places.
Several types of charges may be set aside. Those include most violations, misdemeanors, Class C felonies, and felonies that can be treated as misdemeanors. Most Class A and Class B felony convictions may not be set aside. You cannot set aside any type of traffic violation (such as speeding) or traffic crime (such as DUII). Violent felonies covered by Ballot Measure 11, most sex offenses and offenses involving child abuse may not be set aside. Some very old but serious drug convictions may be set aside in very limited circumstances. The guidelines below will help determine if you qualify to set aside an arrest or conviction.
An arrest record may be set aside after one year if charges were not actually filed. If the charges were dismissed or you were acquitted you may apply to set aside the arrest record immediately. In either situation, you must meet the following qualifications:
If you were convicted of a qualifying violation or crime, you may apply to set the record aside after three years. If you have been convicted of any other offense, other than traffic violations, you must wait 10 years. You must meet these conditions before applying to set aside the conviction:
When filing to have an adult conviction or arrest set aside, you must pay an $80 fee. This pays for the state police fingerprint check. You may also have to pay a filing fee to the court, although this fee can sometimes be waived for indigent persons. You should apply in the court where the conviction occurred. Some courts have forms available for your use. You will need to send a copy of your motion to the prosecuting attorney. The prosecutor and the victim have the right to investigate your background, to file an objection, and to request a hearing. Because of that, it can take some time before the court will rule on your motion. If you have any questions, or if the prosecutor might object, you should consult with an attorney.
If you want to expunge a juvenile record, you must wait at least five years after the termination of your most recent contact with the juvenile court and meet the following qualifications:
When you turn 18, the juvenile court must order expunction of your record if you were never found within the jurisdiction of the court or you meet the conditions described above. In most counties, this is not automatic. You must file a motion. Despite the waiting period and other requirements, a juvenile court may order the set aside if doing so is in the best interest of you and the public. These rules apply to violations of non-traffic state laws and the local ordinances. You cannot set aside any traffic, boating or fish and game offense. Apply to the court in which the arrest, conviction or juvenile proceeding occurred. Some courts have forms and guidelines on how to complete this process yourself. Be very careful if you choose to do this. Make certain the record is set aside by all agencies that may have records of the case. If you have any question about such procedures, you should seek an attorney's help.
Legal Editor: Greg Scholl, June 2020