Legal resources

Dealing with your criminal record


There are many options for dealing with your criminal record. This page is an attempt to provide you with the information you need to get started.

Four steps to improving your status

Step 1: Know what is in your record! You will need to know the following for each conviction in order to expunge your record:

  • The Case Number
  • The Court (Alameda County Superior, Oakland, etc)
  • The Code section violation (e.g. Penal Code section 459 or H&S code section 11377)
  • The Sentence (e.g. three years probation, $100 fine, etc.)
  • The Sentencing Date
  • The Length of Probation and when Probation ended (if any was given)

Step 2: Order your Summary Criminal History (aka, your “Rap Sheet” of all California records of arrests, convictions). If you have multiple convictions (or questions), order your Rap Sheet by requesting a “Record Review Packet” from the State of California Department of Justice (“DOJ”). To order an application for your DOJ Summary Criminal History:

  • Call (916) 227-3849 or (916) 322-2209. You will need to leave a message requesting an application packet.
  • Or write to: California Dept of Justice PO Box 903417 Sacramento, CA 94203-4170 Attn: Records Review Unit.
  • Request a Record Review Packet, an Application for fee waiver and a fingerprint card, if you want to reduce the cost for ordering (otherwise you will be sent a Livescan form, which costs $25 to $75 to process).
  • Once you receive the packet, fill out the form and fee waiver, get fingerprinted (at police stations and other locations—costs approximately $10), and send in these items. Your request will be processed and sent back to you within 6 weeks.

Step 3: Get legal assistance! Get assistance in the county in which you were convicted, if you are applying for expungements and/or reductions (or the county where you live, if applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation).

  1. If you had a Public Defender for your case, the Public Defender’s office will assist you in applying for relief (expungement, sealing, reducations, and Certificates of Rehabilitation.
    • Convictions in Alameda County: The Alameda County Public Defender (510) 268-7400.
    • Convictions in San Francisco: Operation Clean Slate, San Francisco Public Defender (415) 553-9337.
    • Convictions in Contra Costa County: Contra Costa Public Defender (925) 335-8000.
  2. If you had a private attorney, often this attorney will help you apply for relief and may not charge you, so call them.
  3. If you are not eligible for the Public Defender, or have questions, call Suitcase Clinic Legal Services at the East Bay Community Law Center (Alameda County Only) at (510) 548-4040 ext 366.

Step 4: File your motion with the Court! Once you have all the necessary information and know what relief you are eligible for, file your motion(s) and supporting documents with the Criminal Court Clerk of the Superior Court. A hearing will be held approximately 30 days from the day you file your motion(s) and a judge will make a decision to either grant or deny your motion.

More information can be obtained from the California Department of Justice web site Criminal Records Request page.

More information and programs can be found at the following:

Root & Rebound offers a library of free downloadable and low-cost legal books and toolkits for people with criminal records & advocates, including Reentry Planning Toolkits, Roadmap to Reentry Legal Guide, and Resources Designed Just for Employers & Workforce Agencies, Students & Educators, and Community Service Providers.

The Papillon Foundation is a tremendous resource for those who qualify and would like to try to expunge their arrest or conviction record(s). Its website offers a wide range of information, with links to forms, articles, how-to guides, organizations and free legal resources for each state, the District of Columbia and the American Territories.

The Papillon Foundation also will give free personal help to certain ex-offenders—those who are indigent, a veteran or a victim of human trafficking—if they need it. For everyone else, it asks for a small donation.

Find out all your legal options for dealing with your criminal record! Free legal services to help you prepare to have your convictions dismissed or reduced for those eligible. Also, learn how to respond to questions about past convictions. Learn what employers can legally ask regarding past convictions.

A few more helpful websites:

US Department of Justice – Reentry page.

Legal Action Center – Provides toolkits to combat legal barriers facing individuals with criminal records.

Virtual Self-Help Law Center – Self-help law center for California.

Clean Slate Services – San Francisco Bay Area

Services that can help people “clean up” their criminal records. Further inquiry is needed to determine what types of convictions are eligible and if your case qualifies for such a service. Check with the county where you were convicted. Other counties in the United States may offer similar services. Search internet with county name, followed by clean slate programs, as one possibility.

Alameda County or East Bay Community Law Center
City and County of San Francisco
Contra Costa County
Marin County
Napa County
San Mateo
Santa Clara County
Solano County
Sonoma County

For other California counties:
California County Public Defender or County Web Sites