California Expungement Law

By Joe Stone
Some California convictions
cartella file 02 image by DAN from

California law does allow expungement of your criminal record in certain cases, including convictions. The type of crime you committed and the sentence you received will generally determine whether or not you are entitled to expungement. Not all convictions can be expunged and some expunged convictions can still be used against you as a prior offense on a subsequent arrest.

Eligibility for Expungement

Under California Penal Code Section 1203.4, you are entitled to an expungement order if you were placed on probation after conviction and you successfully completed the terms of you probation, including paying all fines, fees and restitution ordered by the court. Even if you were not placed on probation, you are still entitled to an expungement order under Section 1203.4a if you were convicted of a misdemeanor, competed your sentence and more than one year has elapsed since your conviction. In either of these situations, an expungement order will allow you to withdraw your guilty plea and your case will be dismissed.


As a condition for granting expungement, you cannot be currently serving a sentence, on probation or charged with a crime. In the event that you did not complete the terms of your probation, or committed probation violations, the expungement of your record is no longer mandatory, but is subject to the discretion of the judge. Some convictions cannot be expunged under any circumstances, such as certain sex-related offenses and any infractions. (See Reference 2)

Juvenile Records

Records of any juvenile convictions are sealed while you are a minor, but when you reach your 18th birthday they become part of your adult criminal record. Although you can have these juvenile records sealed, you must petition the juvenile court for an order sealing the records. Fives years from the date the order to seal the records is made, the records will be destroyed.

Marijuana Possession

Records of any conviction for possession of marijuana for personal use have been in a special category since 1976. California law provides that these records will be automatically erased two years from the date of conviction. Therefore, you do not have to petition the court for an expungement order for dismissal of these records.

Diversion Cases

Some criminal court offer diversion programs as an alternative to conviction and sentencing to jail or probation. Records in diversion cases are automatically change to dismissals when you complete the diversion program requirements and an expungement order is not needed. If you do not complete the requirements, then a conviction will be placed on your record. As in the case of not completing your probation noted above, it will be at the discretion of the judge whether this type of record can be expunged.