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How to “Clean up” Your Criminal Record

Motion to Seal and Destroy Arrest Record (Penal Code 851.91): Thanks to a new law that took effect January 1, 2018, those that have been arrested but not charged, or those whose case has been dismissed, will have an easier time sealing and destroying their arrest records. Most arrests or charges qualify (even child abuse, elder abuse or domestic violence – unless there is a pattern of arrests or convictions). 

Motion for Early Termination or Modification of Probation (Penal Code 1203.3): At any time after the Court grants probation, the defendant can petition the Court for early termination of probation. Practically speaking, one is in the best position to apply for this type of relief if all the requirements of probation have been satisfied (e.g. fines, fees, community service or programming).

Once probation is terminated, any custody time hanging over the person’s head will go away. If one is on formal felony probation, a motion to modify can be filed in order to convert the probation to summary probation, which means no more probation officer if the motion is granted.

Petition to Withdraw Guilty Plea and Dismiss Case (a.k.a. “expungement”)(Penal Code 1203.4): Once a person is off of probation (either because it naturally expires or because a motion to terminate probation early has been granted) he or she can apply for this relief if no other charges are pending and if not serving a sentence on another case. Having the petition granted will allow the person, in most circumstances, to answer “no” when asked if they have been convicted of a crime. 

Motion to Reduce Charge (Penal Code 17(b)): For felonies that are “wobblers” (charges that could have been filed as either a misdemeanor or felony) one can petition the court to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. This may have the benefit of restoring gun rights lost as a result of the felony conviction for certain types of offenses.

A granted “17(b) motion” will also likely lead to the conversion of formal probation to summary probation. In most circumstances, this motion is made in addition to others, such as a termination of probation and a petition to “expunge.”

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