• file a petition for expungement in california

How to File A Petition for Expungement in California

Being charged with a crime in California is never a pleasant ordeal. In addition to the fines, jail time, and burdensome court obligations, you have to think about your reputation. Criminal charges have personal and professional consequences. Thanks to the laws of California, individuals with criminal records can “clean their slate” through the process of expungement. Read on to learn more about how to file a petition for expungement in California.

California Expungement Process

Contrary to popular belief, the process of expungement does not mean your record is “cleaned.” Instead, your guilty plea or conviction is withdrawn and replaced with a permanent non-guilty plea. Then, the case is dismissed. In other words, it is like a conviction never took place. While state courts grant many expungements each year, not all convictions qualify.

Generally speaking, you can qualify for expungement in California if you meet three criteria: 1) you are not currently serving probation; 2) you have not been charged with another crime; and 3) your crime was a misdemeanor or a felony that could have been charged as a misdemeanor. If you received a felony charge that resulted in a prison sentence, you do not qualify. Also, if your crime was a sexual offense against a minor or serious vehicle code violation that resulted in two or more points on your license, you might not qualify. If you do meet these three criteria, you have to also make sure all court-ordered fines have been paid.

Do-It-Yourself Expungement in California

First, you need to get a copy of your criminal record. You can get a copy of your criminal record from the superior court. Then, if you have completed your probation or were never given probation, you can apply for expungement. California requires probation to be complete before expungement is granted. However, courts often grant early termination of probation. If you are still serving probation, you can petition the court to end your probation early. If this happens, simply pay all of your fines, fees, and restitution. You can then apply for expungement of your conviction.

How to Expunge a Felony Conviction

In California, the only felonies that qualify for expungement are those that could have been charged as a misdemeanor, often called “wobbler” charges. A good way to know if your charge was a “wobbler” is to look at the sentencing. If it says the crime is “punishable by prison or by a term of not less than 365 days in jail,” then it is probably a “wobbler” and qualifies for expungement. To expunge these convictions, you have to first petition the court to reduce the charges. If you can prove to the judge that you have rehabilitated your life and take responsibility for your actions, the request will usually be granted.

For other felony convictions, the process will depend upon the type of sentencing. If you were sentenced to county/jail time and probation, all you have to do is file two petitions. The first petition, PC 17b will reduce the felony to a misdemeanor charge. The second, PC 1203.4, is a petition to have that misdemeanor charge dismissed. This process is fairly straightforward and usually takes 10 to 16 weeks depending on the court processing your documents. However, if your felony charge resulted in a state prison sentence, the process is different. You are only eligible for a dismissal if you have lived in the same county for five years. Also, you cannot file the normal petitions. Instead, you have to file a petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon. You must prove to the judge that you have rehabilitated your life and are making every effort to change. The ball is in the judge’s court to decide whether he will reduce your charges to allow for dismissal.

How to Expunge a California Misdemeanor

California Penal Code section 1203.4a states the requirements of expunging a California misdemeanor. As mentioned above, you need to first get a copy of your criminal record. Next, you need to complete and submit the form CR-180, the Petition for Dismissal. The petition for expungement must be submitted in the county of conviction.

Expungement Costs

Filing a petition for expungement in California usually costs between $100 – $400. The applicable fee will depend on the courthouse in which the petition is submitted. Hiring an attorney to expunge a criminal record can range anywhere between $400 – $1,400 for a single criminal charge plus the court costs. For complex matters, it can range anywhere between $1,000 to $4,000. Using the services of A People’s Choice is a lower cost alternative than hiring an attorney to expunge a criminal record.

At A People’s Choice, we can help you draft all the necessary legal documents to file a petition for expungement in California. Contact us for more information.

Get help with your California legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


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By |2018-03-17T15:40:31-07:00July 10th, 2015|Miscellaneous|42 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.


  1. Chris March 15, 2019 at 6:06 am

    Hi Sandy, in 2012, I arrested under petty theft misdemeanor in Santa Clara county region. Next day went to local police station and given my photo and fingerprints. With in a week, received a letter from Santa Clara district attorney saying that you are eligible for diversion program for first time offence under petty theft misdemeanor. as per court I have completed the diversion program(attended the awareness class and did the 16 hours community service). after that my case was dismissed. I never been to court and there is no record on my name in the court.

    I went to “Superior court of California” in Santa Clara and asked, is there any record on my name. They searched and given the letter with no record on my name. Have below questions. Kindly please hep me

    1. How do I expunge my arrest record in California
    2. How to get official letter about case dismissal ( I received about diversion program completion letter, never received about case dismissal)
    Thank you for your time and help.

    • Sandy McCarthy March 17, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Chris – If you are looking for help with this process, I would recommend you call the office at 800-747-2780 and speak with our Expungement specialist.

  2. Tamiko February 27, 2019 at 7:45 am

    Hello, I had my record expunged over 10yrs ago but I’m still having trouble when my record is searched with certain employers. Do I really need to get my record expunged again. What should I do?

    • Sandy McCarthy March 1, 2019 at 7:12 am

      Sometimes expunged records still show up in certain databases. Unfortunately that issue is beyond our scope of services.

  3. Joseph Isagulyan December 20, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    in 2002 i was convicted with 245 pc i did 90 days jail time and completed my probation and since then nothing,Recently i applied for a job as a LYFT driver they denied it,how can i expung my record and how much it cost in CALIFORNIA,I’m from low income family,Thank you very much

    • Sandy McCarthy December 28, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Our office charges $299 to prepare the expungement paperwork. You want to make sure that you do your due diligence to confirm that the conviction is expungeable as we only prepare the documents and do not not advise nor research the issue.

  4. Patty November 27, 2018 at 1:29 am

    I got my license suspended and never realized it because I moved to a different state and irresponsibly sold my car without changing the title or doing any paperwork. It was suspended for lack of insurance. Yet I no longer had a car for a couple years. I just got a car and I paid those feed but insurance is charging 4000 dollars a year. any way I can get the suspension expunged so insurance rate goes down?

    • Sandy McCarthy December 1, 2018 at 3:22 am

      I would talk to an attorney to see what your options are.

  5. Natalie October 9, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Hello, I have a case from 2005 and am looking to get an expungement but i am still paying restitution. Can i still file or do all fees have to be paid prior?

    • Sandy McCarthy October 10, 2018 at 7:47 am

      Unfortunately because we are NOT attorneys, we are unable to answer these kinds of questions as answering them would be considered giving legal advice. Many attorneys in this area of law offer a free consultation so I would try talking advantage of that option.

  6. Will September 2, 2018 at 8:47 am

    question, as a paralegal you only help with the paper work? also after the paperwork is submitted do I have to go in front of a judge?

    thanks in advance for your response

    • Sandy McCarthy September 2, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Paralegals cannot prepare legal documents for consumers. Our office is a registered legal document assistant which is the requirement to offer legal document assistant services. Many cases do not require a court appearance in front of a judge. For example, an uncontested divorce could be completed without the parties ever having a court appearance. An Expungement may or may not require a hearing. It varies by court and situation.

  7. Dark August 22, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Hi I got a misdemeanor case for battery case was close and clear of but when I apply for job it was still there causing me to loose my job

    • Sandy McCarthy August 23, 2018 at 7:48 am

      Talk to an attorney to see what your options are. Once you have that answer you can reach out to us to see if we can help with the required paperwork.

  8. Victor Vasquez August 20, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    I have a felony for domestic violence. I’m close to getting a job at a hospital and need to pass a background check. Am I eligible to expunge my felony since I’ve been abiding and doing everything I’m suppose to be doing for probation.

    • Sandy McCarthy August 21, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Speak to an attorney to see if you are eligible. We cannot legally advise you regarding this.

  9. Ryan Holl August 19, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    I got a felony charge when I was younger and got another one about 2 years later. Never served state prison time, only county jail. Does having 2 felonies instead of just one make it impossible to clear my record?

    • Sandy McCarthy August 20, 2018 at 8:51 pm

      I would ask an attorney. We cannot give legal advise.

  10. B June 11, 2018 at 7:46 am

    I live in Illinois, im trying to get a charge expunged in California. Do I need to obtain finger prints from my local authority to have to process started?

    • Sandy McCarthy June 11, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Fingerprints are not typically part of the process.

  11. Juan Garcia May 8, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Hi my question would be for a dry wreckless a 2 point conviction on my record Im currently a Class A Driver. And i cant get a job anywhere due to that, i was giving 10 sessions of parenting classes (complete) 26 AA classes also (complete). Credit for 1day jail time. & bail was paid 8hrs community service. Completed and turn in 5-07-18 CAN I FILE FOR EXPUNGEDMENT? ASAP?

    • Sandy McCarthy May 10, 2018 at 7:30 am

      We cannot give you legal advice. Please talk to an attorney to get an answer to your question.

  12. jamaal April 22, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Hello. I am currently 28 years old. When I was I was convicted for an armed robbery and spent about a year in jail. It has now been 10 years and I have not gotten in any sort of trouble. Is it possible to get my record expunged?

    • Sandy McCarthy April 23, 2018 at 11:46 pm

      I would ask an attorney this question. Once you know whether the record is expungeable, we can help you with the paperwork.

  13. vu nguyen April 18, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    I’d like to talk to you about my case! Please email asap

    Thanks in advance;

    Vu Nguyen

    • Sandy McCarthy April 19, 2018 at 3:30 am

      We only prepare legal documents Sorry but we don’t provide legal advice or “consult.”

  14. Chari juarez April 5, 2018 at 8:38 am

    Hi I have one felony which is terrorist threat I did 9 months in county and 3 months in prison I believe it was a turnaround can I still have my felony exsponged?

    • Sandy McCarthy April 12, 2018 at 2:44 am

      Talk to an attorney regarding this. Sorry but we do not offer legal advice as this is not a lawyer’s office.

  15. Milla March 26, 2018 at 8:11 am

    First, a question…as I understand it, after seven years, California is one of eleven or so states that “automatically” erases
    or eradicates not only any convictions (misdemeanor? –as well as felonies) that may be on your “record” but ALL (???) your criminal history ??? Are these/ Is this true? I read it on another online site.
    Secondly, if this is true,and it has been seven years since say one misdemeanor on your criminal record in California, would it be better to just do nothing as the rule or law is that your “record” in California should be or is supposed to be erased and clean-slated, or is that untrue? or, similarly, altho this law is true, or is supposed to be enacted, procedurally it doesnt happen or doesnt happen often (meaning the erasure just doesnt occur even if its supposed to)??? So would it be better to do nothing and let the erasuretake place, or file a petition to expunge the misdemeanor? In other words, Would filing for expungement (misdemeanor) after seven years make something appear on your record that would otherwise not be there at all anymore????

    • Sandy McCarthy March 26, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      Milla – I would recommend you speak with an attorney exerienced in these types of matters. We are not lawyers and under California law cannot give you legal advice. Good luck!

  16. Pearl Logan March 22, 2018 at 5:30 am

    I went through a trial but all charges were dropped. I went to the court house and the case still came up so I got a copy of it. Can I get that expunged?

    • Sandy McCarthy March 23, 2018 at 2:35 am

      I do not know how you can eliminate a court record. I would speak with an attorney.

  17. Joan Teegarden March 12, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    I have lived in a different state all my life. Never even have lived or visited the state of California. However my step sister was a trucker in L.A. and Anaheim California. She stole my identity in the 90’s. Put an apartment in my name to which my name was cleared of the bills with the documents they sent. Now it shows on the internet Ive lived in L.A. and have a criminal record for something I have no idea for what. This girl stole my identity with my SS number. How can I be cleared from this record? I have no idea even for what it’s for.

    • Sandy McCarthy March 15, 2018 at 3:28 am

      Definitely talk to an attorney regarding this problem! Good luck!

  18. Sean March 4, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Hello i caught a felony possession n a 2° burglery well over ten years ago at seperate times. I ended up recieving 180 days in county or in lue of that time start the 180 days in a rehab. I left the rehab n when i got picked up i ended up in prison. the prison due to the probation violation so technicly it wasnt really a prison conviction correct?

    • Sandy McCarthy March 5, 2018 at 2:14 am

      Unfortunately we cannot give you legal advice. I would speak to a lawyer regarding whether or not it was a prison conviction.

  19. Siaos February 18, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    I went to the Public Defender in the same court house my misdemeanor case was handled, and they submitted my application for Dismissal free of charge. After about 3 weeks I received a letter from court saying request is Granted.
    After a few days I lost the letter, but a few weeks later I applied for a job at Uber, where they ran my background check and emailed a copy of the result. It still shows my case. I wonder if the process required me to take the letter back to court office to complete the expunge process or whatever I missed I don’t….. appreciate you feedback.

    • Sandy McCarthy February 20, 2018 at 2:27 am

      I would check with the court to see what happened to the order. You may also want to follow up with the public defenders office.

  20. Megan December 2, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I was arrested when i was 18 for stealing and intent to steal but all the charges were dismissed. Can I have my records sealed or expunged?

    • Sandy McCarthy December 3, 2017 at 5:09 am

      I would suggest you ask an attorney that question.

  21. Martha. E Cabrera September 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Hello my name is Martha, and I need to get my record expunged in California, I would like to know what is your cost?

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