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Last Updated 9/2/2016
What Can I Do About My Criminal Record?
Criminal records can be a big barrier to overcome in seeking employment. But the good news is that there are steps you can take to clean up your record and get a clean slate.
This guide is designed to help you learn all about the process of dismissing prior convictions on your record, also known as expungement or dismissal. This might not work in all cases or for all crimes, but it could give you an opportunity to start fresh.
Do I Qualify for Expungement or Dismissal?
As previously mentioned, not all records can be expunged or dismissed, although they are treated the same in the state of California. Expungement or dismissal of convictions is generally granted to misdemeanors -- or felonies that could have been tried as misdemeanors -- that resulted in a stay at a county jail, probation, a fine, or a combination of these things.
Additionally, there are convictions that absolutely cannot be expunged or dismissed. Primarily, these crimes involve the sexual assault of a minor, the concealment of sexual assault of a minor, or child pornography. But certain felony offenses for refusing vehicle inspection, evading an officer, or resisting arrest can also be excluded from expungement or dismissal under certain circumstances.
You should seek legal advice to determine your eligibility for expungement or dismissal, as there are many lawyers in the area who specialize in “restorative justice.” If you do, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself to prepare:
- What is your case number — sometimes called “docket number”?
- What was your date of conviction — which is the date of your plea, verdict, or finding of guilt?
- What are the code name and section number you were convicted of violating?
- Was there a verdict, or did you enter a plea? If you entered a plea, was it “guilty” or “no contest” (also called “nolo contendere”)?
- Were you ordered to serve any time on probation (either formal or informal probation, since they are treated the same in your record)? If so, for how long?
- Were you ordered to pay any fines, restitution, or reimbursement?
- If you were sentenced to state prison, which one?
- If you were sentenced to state prison, on what date were you released?
- If you were released on parole, on what date?
Knowledge is power. The more you understand the circumstances of your conviction, the better you will be able to explain to advocates exactly how to help you.
How to Obtain and Expunge Your Record
Step 1: Obtain Your Record
There are certain steps you can take to expunge your record, but first, you need to actually obtain your criminal record or “RAP sheet.” This will give you a good idea of whether you qualify for expungement. You can obtain your record in two ways:
Go to the
Hall of Justice
850 Bryant St.
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 628-4000
Hours: M-F 8:00-4:30
Fees: $25 plus .50 cents per page
SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT
850 BRYANT STREET ‐ RM 101
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103
Attn: Records Clerk.
Mail the following three items:
**Note: If your records request exceeds $50, you will be contacted by the court to arrange for further payment. Make sure your phone number is on the check.
Step 2: Check Your Record
Now that you have your record, you can see whether there are aspects that qualify for expungement or dismissal. One of the easiest ways to do so is using ‘Clear My Record,’ a free service provided by the non-profit organization Code for America that may be able to help San Francisco residents reduce or dismiss their criminal records. The tool will ask for information about your record as well as your current residential and employment information in an effort to better understand your eligibility for expungement or dismissal.
This service is available at www.clearmyrecord.codeforamerica.org
From there, your application will be reviewed by a public defender to determine whether an expungement or dismissal may be possible.
You can also accomplish this by calling the Public Defender’s office at (415) 553-1671 and scheduling a walk-in clinic to deliver your records through their “Clean Slate” program, available at http://sfpublicdefender.org/services/clean-slate/.
Either way, a Public Defender may contact you for information about the next steps.
Step 3: Be Patient
Unfortunately, expungement or dismissal is not an efficient process. If you are eligible, be prepared to wait 3-4 months for expungement or dismissal to occur and show up on your record.
There are other resources you can access to aid you in the meantime. Here are a few to consider:
Felony Offenses and Prop 47
You may have heard about Proposition 47, which may be able to help amend your record. It is possible to have your felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor even if you have already served your sentence and parole for your crime. Here is some more information about what Prop 47 is and how it works.
Prop 47 is a petition-based procedure that requires an application. Again, the “Clean Slate” program at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office has an available petition application, with a step-by-step guide, available at http://sfpublicdefender.org/services/clean-slate/
Here are some simple rules to figure out if your felony conviction qualifies under Prop 47:
- The crime must have been committed before November 5, 2014.
This is an important qualifier, as it shows that your crime was sentenced before Prop 47 went into effect. If the crime was sentenced after November 5, 2014, it would already be reclassified under Prop 47, so it wouldn’t apply.
- Your criminal history must NOT include a serious violent charge, and you cannot be registered as a sex offender.
Acts that are not eligible for Prop 47 include murder, other serious violent acts punishable by life imprisonment, sexual offenses, or certain gun crimes.
- The crime must be eligible under Prop 47’s conditions for reclassification.
Qualifying felonies include property crimes and theft where the value does not exceed $950, including shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, or writing fraudulent checks. Additionally, the conviction of drug possession for most illegal substances -- including concentrated cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin -- also qualify for reclassification. Please contact an attorney for more specific information regarding your eligibility.
- The petition must have been filed before November 5, 2017.
If you believe you do have a felony that qualifies, you must file your petition before this date. This ensures your process will go smoothly and doesn’t require you to procure “good cause” for a late filing.
Goodwill Career Services: http://sfgoodwill.org/career-services/ (415) 575-2101
America Works: http://www.americaworks.com/ (510) 891-9100
Careeronestop: http://www.careeronestop.org/ExOffender/index.aspx (877) 872-5627
Department of Rehabilitation of California: http://www.dor.ca.gov/ (415) 904-7100
East Bay Works: http://eastbayworks.com (510) 670-5700
Salvation Army Bayview: http://www.tsagoldenstate.org/goldenstate/bayview_hp, (415) 826-9020
Bay Area Legal Aid: https://www.baylegal.org/ (510) 663-4755
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights: https://lawyerscommittee.org/ (202) 662-8600