Nearly everyone has a moment of bad luck at some point in their lives. Stepping in a puddle with new shoes or losing a $20 bill can temporarily ruin your day. However, bad luck could also have more severe consequences. For example, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and lead to arrest and potentially criminal charges.

When a crime is suspected, law enforcement officers make snap decisions to gather suspects and witnesses at the scene. If you happen to be near the alleged crime scene, you may be wrongfully arrested and charged with a crime.

Does a wrongful arrest stay on my record?

If police, during their investigation, decide that they don’t need or suspect you, you could be released without any charges against you. However, what about that arrest? Does it just “go away” like it never happened? The answer to this can be a bit confusing and depends exactly on who wants to know and where they are looking for this information.

Who can see my arrest record?

For the most part, during normal, regular background checks run by employers, arrests without later charges are not going to show up on a person’s record, in most circumstances. Arrest information is still available to employers, but typically only when they request public records from law enforcement, which is something that most employers do not do.

In order to seal these records from the public, individuals must take additional steps. California Penal Code section 851.91 affords individuals the opportunity to conceal arrest records, but they must wait until after the time limits on the potential charge or charges have run out. In most circumstances, the court is required to grant these requests from applicants.

You should know that law enforcement can still access your arrest records under the process detailed above. To seal your arrest record from law enforcement as well, you need to file a petition of factual innocence, a document that wipes your record clean from wrongful arrests.

This is something that is not easy to obtain. The courts need to see enough proof that you clearly did not commit the crime and there is no reasonable reason to believe you committed the crime.

The burden of proof lies on you and your legal representation, so make sure you are adequately prepared. It is also critical to work fast since you have a short time after an arrest to file the petition in most cases.