Criminal Record Cleaning

Expungement, Certificate of Rehabilitation, Pardon, Sealings

NOTICE (please read):  The information contained herein and throughout this web site is an information tool to assist you in understanding the Criminal Record Cleaning process.  We do not guarantee any results with respects to your particular case.  The information provided here and throughout this web site, is not intended as legal advice.  You are encouraged to consult with the Expungement attorney here at the Mesereau Free Legal Clinic, a private attorney, or the Public Defender’s office in your county.  The information contained here is specific to criminal convictions in the state of California.  Other states, including the Military and Federal government may have similar procedures, which you will need to check with them directly or we can assist you in determining the required procedures and processes for your state, Military or Federal Government.

If a person has been in prison or on parole, click here to skip to “Certificate of Rehabilitation” or “Pardon.”

 What is an Expungement?

Expungement (also known as expunction) is a court process where the legal record of an arrest or criminal conviction is “sealed”, dismissed or set aside pursuant to State regulations with some exceptions.  According to the California, Penal Code 1203.4, a defendant’s case usually is expunged if the conditions of probation have been fulfilled, terminated or discharged early if in the court’s discretion and in the interests of justice.    

Note: A dismissal pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4 does not remove the conviction or arrest from the criminal record. The dismissal simply adds the notation that the “conviction has been set aside and dismissed pursuant to PC 1203.4”

  •      The granting of your request by the court does not eliminate from your record the fact that an arrest occurred or that charges were brought, only that a conviction occurred.
  • The granting of your request does not relieve you of the obligation to disclose the conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery.
  •       The conviction still may be alleged as a prior conviction in future criminal proceeding and may be considered by the Department of Motor Vehicles for purposes of suspending or otherwise restricting your driving privilege.
  •       The granting of your request does not relieve you of any prohibition on the ownership or possession of firearms resulting from the conviction (CA Penal Code section 12021).

Okay, so what does this mean, can I still get a job?


 Your official criminal history (RAP) sheet will now have the words “set aside and dismissed” next to it instead of “convicted.”  That might help you for things like getting an occupational state licenses (like nursing licenses, etc).  On background checks done by private employers, they might see that the conviction was dismissed.  There is no guarantee, though, that they will not still see the conviction, because your court file is open to public inspection. 

If a potential employer asks you if you have ever been convicted, you can honestly answer no!  Legally, the conviction has been set aside and dismissed.  If you know  they are going to do a background check, though, you might want to say that you had a case dismissed (just in case they don’t see the expungement when they look through the public records).

  There are a few places you still have to say yes, you have been convicted, even if it’s all been expunged.  Those places are: 1) the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency “ICE”; 2) any state or local licensing agency (i.e. applying for a guard card or nursing license); 3) contracts with the state lottery; and 4) in an application for public office.

Expungements may help you get a state license, but it is NO GUARANTEE! You should check with the licensing agency to see if you can get a license with your criminal background, even if the convictions are expunged. 

 If you are applying for a job in a different state, it is best to be on the safe side and tell potential employers that you had a case and it was dismissed, just in case they have different rules.

Prohibited Offenses:

Penal Code section 1203.4 does not apply to persons convicted of any misdemeanors listed in California Vehicle Code section 42001, or for any violations of Penal Code section 286( c), 288, 288a( c ), 288.5, 289(j), felony violations of 261.5 or any infractions.

Am I eligible for an expungement?

If you answer the following questions 1-3 as “YES”


your answers to questions 4-6 is “NO”,

then you may be eligible to file a petition under Penal Code section 1203.4. 

1.   Were you convicted of an offense and placed on probation?

2.   Has your probation been terminated?

3.   Have you paid all court ordered fines and restitutions?

And an answer of No to the following questions:

4.   Are you currently serving a sentence for another offense?

5.   Are you currently on probation for another offense?

6.   Are you currently charged with another offense?
Ok, I think I am ready, what do I do next?

To expunge your record is a five-(5) step process.  To begin the process you will need to determine what is in your criminal record.  Information obtained from your criminal record will be required to complete the petition for an expungement. 

The Mesereau Free Legal Clinic will assist you in determining if you are ready to have your record expunged and complete all necessary forms and waivers at no cost to you.  No appointments are necessary for a confidential interview and review of your prior cases.  See our calendar for the next clinic and location by clicking here.

Option 1:  visit the Mesereau Free Legal Clinic for discussion and instructions; or

Option 2: obtain your criminal record (Dockets/RAP sheet) then visit us at the Mesereau Free Legal Clinic for help

Docket (court file)

  • Go to  courthouse where convicted and obtain your court file (docket)                              
  • .   Cost: there is usually a per page fee and possibly research charges.  If you have an arrest and/or conviction in more than one city and/or county, you should consider obtaining your RAP sheet.


RAP sheet

  •                                             Fingerprint - Live Scan.   (A Live Scan is an electronic fingerprint, which goes directly to the Department of Justice “DOJ”).  The DOJ will forward directly to you a copy of your RAP sheet for review. Obtain your Live Scan from any authorized Live Scan operator (click here). 
  • Cost: State fee for RAP sheet (may be waived if eligible)  + fingerprint charge.  A valid photo ID will be required.

How long will it take to have my record expunged?

You will visit Mesereau Free Legal clinic where we will review with your the Docket and/or RAP sheet.  We will determine which charge(s) and/or cases are eligible for expungement.  We will complete the applicable Petitions and Orders to  be filed and assist in the filing of such petitions including provide instructions on how to serve the appropriate prosecutiorial agency.  Thereafter, the court will decide on your petition within one to three months dependent upon the court’s calendar.  If your petition is denied, you will have 60 days from the date of the decision to file reconsideration or to re-file your petition at a later date. 

The Mesereau Free Legal Clinic will assist you in determining if you are ready to have your record expunged.  No appointments are necessary for a confidential interview of your prior cases.  See our calendar for the next clinic and location by clicking here.