When a person gets arrested, there is an entry on their criminal record, also known as a “rap sheet”. The entry will list the date of the arrest, the location of the incident, and the code section that was reported to have been violated, such as Penal Code section 459 (a Burglary in California).
If there was a conviction, the record will show the code section under which the person was convicted, and any sentencing information, such as a fine, a grant of probation, or a prison sentence.
A background check is often run in connection with applying for licenses, securing employment, or seeking housing. A blemish on one’s rap sheet could mean the difference between a positive outcome, or being denied a license, not getting hired, or not getting approved for an apartment, etc.
As you can see, it is really important that you know what is on your rap sheet!
Arrests do not always result in convictions. In fact, many people get arrested and never have to go to court. Sometimes, a person is ordered to appear in court, but the prosecutor’s office decides to not file charges. Other times, the prosecutor does file charges, but later dismisses the whole case.
Most people believe that if you fall into one of the above categories, where you were arrested but never convicted, then the arrest disappears from your record. This is wrong! Unfortunately, an arrest remains on your record even if you were never even charged with a crime!
For example, Veronica gets into a major argument with her boyfriend Alex. The argument escalates, and Veronica begins throwing objects around the apartment. The commotion gets the attention of Nancy the neighbor, who then calls the police. The police respond to the call, arriving at Veronica’s apartment. Veronica and Alex assure the police everything is ok, and there’s no need for alarm. The police are nonetheless insistent that someone is going to jail, and they arrest Alex. Alex bails out the same evening, and is given a date to appear in court.
The arresting officers write up a report summarizing their investigation. They turn the report, along with photographs of the apartment over to the DA’s Office. The DA’s Office reviews the case in order to determine whether or not criminal charges will be filed.
Meanwhile, Alex’ court date approaches. On the date set for his arraignment, Alex and his lawyer appear in court. When they go to check in at the clerk’s window, the clerk informs his lawyer, that the DA’s Office declined to file charges. No charges were ever formally filed, there is no case, and Alex can move on with his life.
Again, most people in this situation would think that the arrest would not show up on Alex’ rap sheet. Unfortunately, the arrest and a code section relating to domestic violence, such as Penal Code section 243(e) or 273.5 might be listed.
As you can imagine, this would be very upsetting news for Alex. Here he was completely innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, but now he has an entry on his rap sheet for a domestic violence arrest. He technically has not been convicted of a crime, but we all know in the real world, this could make him look really bad. All things being equal, who’s getting the job, the guy with the clean record, or the guy with the arrest for domestic violence?
Is there any Alex can do? Fortunately, yes! In California, the law allows for the filing of a Petition for Sealing of Arrest Records. The Petition is filed in court and served on the prosecuting agency. A hearing date is set at which time the judge will hear argument on why the petition should be granted.
If the judge grants the petition, he or she will order that the arrest record be sealed. This means that the arrest will be deemed not to have occurred. Also, the person can legally assert he has never been arrested.
At Kersey Law, we have helped many people in this situation clean up their records, giving our clients the confidence that they won’t be prejudiced by negative information on their rap sheets. If you or someone you know needs assistance with getting an arrest off of their record, or have questions, give us a call at 619-432-3712 for a free consultation!