Penal Code 851.8 details the steps necessary to file a petition for factual innocence. “Factual innocence” is a legal way of saying that a person is actually innocent of a criminal accusation.
Individuals could file a petition for factual innocence to get their arrest record sealed and destroyed. Note that there have been changes to the laws on sealing arrest records in California. Currently, this process is handled under Penal Code 851.87, as it makes the process easier.
Basic Facts About a Petition for Factual Innocence
Individuals who were arrested or charged with a crime could make a petition for factual innocence in some cases to the courts in California. If approved, the court would then issue a finding that said the individual did not commit a crime, even if they were detained, arrested, and charged.
Note that a petition for factual innocence is not the same as a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty in order to secure a conviction. A petition for factual innocence requires the defendant to show they did not commit a crime.
A successful petition for factual innocence requires the court to seal and then destroy an individual’s arrest record. Currently, the court typically seals these records as a “matter of right.”
Situations Where Petitions for Factual Innocence Are Allowed
Not everyone accused of a crime in California can file a petition for factual innocence. The court system only allows you to make a petition if:
- You were detained but not officially arrested
- You were arrested but not actually charged
- You were charged but your charges were dropped
- You were charged but not convicted
These are the only situations in which someone can file a petition for factual innocence. If you were convicted of a crime in California, then you cannot file this petition. Contact the Simmrin Law Group for more information about California’s current regulations at (310) 997-4688.
Results of a Successful Petition for Factual Innocence
If the court accepts a petition for factual innocence, the court issues orders to the Department of Justice and the police department to seal the individual’s arrest records. These departments then comply.
An individual’s arrest records remain sealed for three years. After this three-year period is up, the records are then destroyed. The petition is also destroyed at this time. Note that other material may also be destroyed, including an individual’s:
- Court records
- Booking information
- Arrest reports
Destroying arrest records means they will not show up on any future background checks. Many different organizations perform background checks here in California. A past arrest could come up when individuals apply to:
- Get a job
- Secure an apartment
- Enter an institute of higher education
A petition for factual innocence could remove all traces of an arrest record. This meant that the arrest would not show up if someone ran a background check on you.
Steps to Handle a Petition for Factual Innocence
The burden of proof is on the defendant when it comes to a petition for factual innocence. In most cases, individuals must show that they were arrested without legal cause. A lawyer would then work with you to draft a petition for factual innocence with evidence.
The prosecution could also present evidence at a hearing for a petition for factual evidence. A judge then makes the final decision after all the evidence is presented.
You should also know that the court system used to restrict the amount of time you needed to wait to file a petition for factual innocence. It used to be that you only had two years after your arrest to file this petition. After two years, if you didn’t file, then the arrest record would remain.
However, much of this process was adjusted with Penal Code 851.87. The Simmrin Law Group can help if you are interested in filing a petition for factual innocence.
Learn More About Filing a Petition for Factual Innocence in California
The Simmrin Law Group is prepared to help you file a petition requesting your arrest record be sealed and destroyed in California. Contact us to learn more about Penal Code 851.8 and what you need to do by calling (310) 997-4688. You can also complete our online contact form. Get assistance from a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles now with a free consultation.