What happens if you were arrested for a crime, but no charges were ever filed? Or if charges were filed, but they were ultimately dismissed? Or if the case went to trial, but you were found not guilty of committing the crime? Should situations where you were innocent of any wrongdoing still be on your criminal record? Absolutely not. Fortunately, under California Law, there is a way to remove the arrest or charge by sealing and destroying the record.

Under California Penal Code §851.8 PC, a person can petition for a certificate of factual innocence. If the court grants a petition for factual innocence, all records of the arrest or charge are sealed and destroyed.

If you were arrested but never charged with a crime, or your case went to trial and you were found not guilty, you should contact an Orange County petition for factual innocence lawyer. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Scott D. Henry could help you file the petition and possibly have the arrest or charge removed from your record.

What is Factual Innocence?

Factual Innocence means that a person is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing. A granted petition shows that there was no reasonable cause to believe the person committed the offense for which they were arrested or charged.

If the court grants the petition, the law enforcement agency must seal the record for three years from the date of the arrest. After three years, the agency must destroy the record.

How to File for a Petition for Factual Innocence in Orange County

To petition for factual innocence, your local attorney files a document with the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over where the alleged offense took place. A petition must be requested within two years of the arrest. If the law enforcement agency does not respond within 60 days, an attorney may petition the court with jurisdiction over the case. If charges were filed, an accused individual must first wait for a dismissal of the charges or a verdict of not guilty.

Upon receipt of the petition, the court will schedule a hearing. At this hearing, a lawyer must prove beyond a reasonable doubt there was no cause for the arrest. If an attorney is successful in proving that there was no cause, it becomes the prosecutor’s burden to show there was indeed reasonable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense in question. Based on the evidence presented from both sides, the judge then decides to either grant or deny the petition.

If the judge grants the motion, the court orders the law enforcement agency, the prosecutor’s office, and the Department of Justice to seal all arrest records. This includes all arrest reports, booking photos, and evidence obtained in the case. The court also orders the sealing and destruction of any record the law enforcement agency or Department of Justice provided to any local, state, or federal agency.

How is a Petition of Factual Innocence Differ from Expungement?

In an expungement, the criminal record remains. However, the charges will show they were dismissed. This means that the record is still accessible to employers, the public, law enforcement agencies, and others who view your criminal background.

A granted petition for factual innocence completely seals and destroys the record that pertains to the arrest. The record is completely erased as if the arrest or charge never occurred. Therefore, no one can access it.

Benefits of Petitioning for Factual Innocence

If the court grants you a factual innocence motion, it will help remove the stigma of being arrested, and you will have a clear criminal record. If you apply for employment, housing, or student loans, there will be no record of an arrest if a background check is performed. Additionally, once you are granted a factual innocence motion, you can legally answer “No” when asked if you have ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime. An experienced Orange County lawyer could further explain the benefits of petitioning for factual innocence in your specific case.

Contact an Orange County Petition for Factual Innocence Attorney Today

Scott D. Henry and his team understand what a devastating effect a wrongful arrest or unfounded charge can have on a person’s life. We firmly believe you should not suffer the negative consequences of being arrested or charged with a crime you did not commit. We are dedicated to helping our clients avoid these consequences. Our team has the skill, experience, and resources to effectively represent you in the fight for your innocence. Please call our office today for a free consultation with one of our Orange County petition for factual innocence lawyers.

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