Petition for Dismissal (California Expungement) (2024)

In most cases, you will need to file papers in court and ask a judge to expunge your conviction. This process is called a Petition for Dismissal. The process is almost the same for requesting mandatory or discretionary dismissal, but there are a few small differences. Remember, it is always good to ask a lawyer for assistance, especially if you are requesting discretionary dismissal.

The court clerk:

The court clerk is the person who oversees all of the court’s records, legal documents, and administration. Some courts may have a separate clerk for each department of the court (e.g., criminal court, traffic court, probate court, etc.). If this is the case, you will need to get help from the criminal court clerk. Usually, the clerk will have a separate office, counter, or window at the courthouse. When you go to the courthouse, ask someone where the clerk’s office is if you can’t find it.

Find California Court Form CR-180 and CR-181 (Petition and Order for Dismissal)in Appendix KK, on PG.1070.

Get the court forms you will need to request an expungement from the court: the Petition for Dismissal (form CR-180) and the Order for Dismissal (form CR-181)

    The “Petition for Dismissal” (form CR-180) is the formal document you use to ask the court to expunge your conviction.
    If the judge approves your expungement, s/he will sign the “Order for Dismissal” (form CR-181) to make your expungement an official court order.
    You can get these forms from several places, including.
    The Clerk of the court where you were convicted;
    The California Courts’ official website (; or
    From your lawyer.
    A sample form CR-180 and form CR-181 are included in APPENDIXFF, on PG. 1070 for reference. BUT it is always better to get the most current version from an official source, in case there have been any recent changes to the form.

IMPORTANT: If you have convictions from multiple cases, you will need to file a separate petition for each case.


Fill out your court forms (Petition AND Order)[3312]

Here are some tips for filling out the forms:

    Petition Fill in ALL the information that the forms ask for. You will need the information from your RAP sheet (or court records from all of your cases) in order to fill out the forms.
    Petition question #1If you are filing a petition to have a felony “wobbler” expunged, you will need to mark “Yes” in the box that asks if the felony is eligible for reduction to a misdemeanor under Penal Code Section 17(b). (See PG. 970 for more information about expungement of felony “wobblers.”)
    Bottom of Petition —If your sentence included probation, check the box for “1203.4.” If your sentence did NOT include probation, check the box for “1203.4a.” If you were convicted of a felony under California’s Realignment Act, check the box for “1203.41.” (See PG. 961 for more information about expungement of felonies that were sentenced under Realignment.)
    Bottom of Petition—Don’t forget to sign the form and put the date!
    OrderOnly fill out the top boxes (for “Lawyer or Party Without Lawyer,” “People of the State of California v. Defendant,” and “Case Number”), and leave the rest of the form blank (all of the numbered questions). Make sure the information is the same as the top boxes on the Petition form! The judge will fill in all the other information after deciding whether or not to grant your expungement.
    Petition AND OrderIf you are filling out the forms for yourself, you are BOTH the “petitioner” AND the “defendant,” so you should fill in your information wherever you see these terms.
    If your conviction qualifies for mandatory dismissal, you only need to fill out the Petition (CR-180) and Order (CR-181) forms. However, if your conviction only qualifies for discretionary dismissal, you will need to include a few more documents in addition to your petition. (See PG.962 for more information on the difference between mandatory and discretionary expungement, and to figure out which type of expungement you qualify for.)


(FOR DISCRETIONARY PETITIONS ONLY) Gather additional supporting documents to include with your Petition.

If you are requesting a discretionary dismissal, you will also need to include the following documents. (Note: Make a photocopy of any documents you send with your petition, and keep the original for yourself!)

    A Declaration. A declaration is a statement that you write under penalty of perjury, that explains why expungement of your conviction is “in the interests of justice.” Your declaration should say why you deserve to get an expungement, and how it will help you succeed in the future:[3313]
    How have you changed since your conviction? What was going on in your life at the time of the conviction? What has changed in your life since then?
    What efforts have you made toward rehabilitation? What are you doing to improve yourself and your situation (such as treatment programs, work or school, connecting with family, finding religion)?
    What are your goals for the future (for example, getting a job or promotion, getting your GED or a college degree, connecting with family, starting a business)?
    How will getting an expungement help you to achieve your goals?
    You can use the official Declaration form (MC-031) published by the Judicial Council of California which is available from the court clerk, or on the California Courts website at:
    For tips for what to write in your Declaration, see APPENDIXL, on PG. 1022. For a sample Declaration, see APPENDIXM, on PG. 1023.
    Letters of Support. Letters of support serve as character references and emphasize the positive impact that granting your dismissal will have. You should ask for letters from people who know you well, and who can talk about your positive qualities, your accomplishments, and your rehabilitation efforts. These can be from your rabbi, priest, or pastor; your employer (current or previous); your teachers; your sponsor or mentor; your counselor or case manager; community leaders and other members of community organizations that you are involved in; and your friends, family, and neighbors. When you ask someone for a letter of support, you can remind them of your accomplishments and explain what you would like them to write about (for example, how you have changed since your conviction, your efforts at rehabilitation, your good character, your efforts to improve yourself and help others around you, and why you deserve to have your conviction expunged). For more information on how to write a Letter of Support and tips for what to write, see APPENDIXN, on PG. 1024. A sample Letter of Support is included in APPENDIXO, on PG. 1025.
    Proof of Accomplishments. If you have completed any classes or training programs since your conviction (such as vocational training or job readiness programs; GED classes, or other schooling; mentorship courses, reentry programs, restorative justice workshops, or any other treatment programs), or if you have earned any certificates, awards, or degrees, or if there are any other accomplishments that you’re proud of, you should make sure to include this information with your petition! This can be anything you accomplished while you were incarcerated or since you’ve been released. (Note: Make a photocopy of any documents you send with your petition, and keep the originals for yourself!)
    Letter to Request a Hearing. If you are asking for a discretionary expungement, you should ALWAYS ask for a hearing in front of a judge, so that you have the best chance to convince him/her to grant your request. To ask for a hearing, write a very brief letter saying that you would like to request a hearing on your Petition for Dismissal. Make sure to include your name and case number, and address your letter to “The Honorable Judge” (with the judge’s name, if you know it). Turn in this letter with your Petition and other documents.
    Other Documents: Each court may have local rules about what additional documents you can include with your petition and what documents you should bring to the hearing. Check with the court clerk about what to do with any other documents that you would like the judge to consider.

Make copies of your petition and supporting documents.

After you have filled out your petition and attached your supporting documents, you will need to make several copies of everything. Ask the court clerk how many copies are required by the court in your county. If you can’t talk to the clerk, make at least five copies to be safe.

Often, the original petition goes in the court’s file (the “docket”), one copy goes to the District Attorney, one copy goes to the probation department, and one “courtesy” copy is saved for the judge. But these procedures may vary by county, so it’s important to ask the clerk how many copies you need to make.

“Serve” the Court Papers

What is “service” and how do I do it?[3314] Service is the formal process of giving copies of the documents in a court case to the other people connected with the case. It is a very important step because it lets the other people know 1) that your court case exists, and 2) what actions have been taken in the case so far. A case CANNOT go forward until the court documents are properly served (delivered). The most common methods of service are in person or by mail, although in come situations, service can be by fax or email also.

In general, for an expungement petition, your papers have to be served on the District Attorney and the county probation department. Ask the court clerk whether there is anyone else who needs to get the papers also.

File Your Petition and “Proof of Service” with the Court Clerk.

After your papers have been “served” on all of the other parties, bring the following documents to the court clerk: Your original Petition; your additional supporting documents (if you are requesting a discretionary dismissal); one set of copies for your records; AND the Proof of Service for your Petition. The clerk will stamp your papers with the date and give you a stamped copy. Remember, the court clerk will usually have an office or counter at the courthouse, so that’s where you will need to go to file your papers. The clerk may or may not give you a court date for a hearing before a judge.

    FOR MANDATORY DISMISSALS: In some counties, mandatory expungements are granted without any hearing on your Petition. Other counties require a formal hearing before an expungement is granted.
    FOR DISCRETIONARY DISMISSALS: If you are requesting a discretionary expungement, you should ALWAYS ask for a hearing before a judge, so that you have the best chance to convince him/her to grant your expungement. Tell the court clerk that you would like to request a hearing and show him/her your letter requesting a hearing, which you should include with your other documents.

Go to Your Court Date/Hearing

If you are given a hearing date, you or your lawyer MUST go to court for the hearing!

    FOR MANDATORY DISMISSALS: If you qualify for a mandatory dismissal, the judge will grant your petition, and dismiss your case. You shouldn’t have to do anything if there is a hearing. You should receive something in the mail from the court within a few weeks confirming that your record has been officially changed.
    FOR DISCRETIONARY DISMISSALS: If you are requesting a discretionary dismissal, the hearing is your chance to explain your case to the judge and persuade him or her that dismissing your conviction is “in the interests of justice.” You will need to show the judge why you deserve to have your conviction expunged, and how an expungement will help you succeed and achieve your goals.[3315] You should be prepared to explain the information in your Declaration and in any supporting documents that you included with your Petition. Make sure you bring extra copies of these documents to the hearing! In general, the judge will tell you right there at the hearing whether or not your expungement is granted.

Follow up!

After the judge grants your expungement and signs the Order making it official, the court will send the information to the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies. It may take a few months for these agencies to correct your official criminal record (RAP sheet) to show that your conviction was expunged. You should follow up with the Department of Justice in 3-4 months to confirm that the changes were made. Remember, expungement does NOT erase the conviction from your criminal record. Instead, your RAP sheet will state that your case has been “dismissed [in] furtherance of justice (DISM, FURTH OF JUST)” OR “dismissed pursuant to PC 1203.4.”

If the DOJ has NOT corrected your record after several months, you may need to ask them to do so by filing a “Claim of Alleged Inaccuracy or Incompleteness” (form BCIA 8706). The process for challenging and correcting information in your RAP sheet is detailed in APPENDIXF, on PG.1010.

If your petition is denied, re-file it

If your petition for expungement is denied, you are allowed to file it again (“re-file”). At the end of your hearing, ask the judge to explain the reason why s/he did not grant your request for an expungement, so that you can take steps to fix the problem before you re-file your Petition. If you forget to ask or cannot get this information from the judge for some reason, try calling the court clerk to see if he or she can help you figure out what to do to make sure your Petition is granted the next time.[3316]

  1. 3312

    See also Dealing With Criminal Records in Alameda County Self-Help Manual, East Bay Community Law Center (2005),

  2. 3313

    See also Dealing With Criminal Records in Alameda County Self-Help Manual, East Bay Community Law Center (2005),

  3. 3314

    Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§414.10, 415.10-415.95, 417.10-417.40, 684.110-684.140, 684.210-684.220, 1010-1020; see also Personal Service: Deliver Court Papers to the Other Party, Sacramento County Public Law Library (Mar. 2014),

  4. 3315

    See also Dealing With Criminal Records in Alameda County Self-Help Manual, East Bay Community Law Center (2005),

  5. 3316

    See Cleaning Your Record, California Courts,

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Petition for Dismissal (California Expungement) (2024)


Can you answer no if your record is expunged in California? ›

Following a successful expungement, if a potential employer asks if you have ever been convicted you can honestly answer “no”. Keep in mind, though, that background checks typically go back 10 years, and employers can see that you had a conviction dismissed. Answering "No" may look dishonest.

Can I expunge a dismissed case in California? ›

You may petition to have your record sealed at any time if: you were arrested but not charged with a crime and the statute of limitations has run on each offense for which you were arrested. the case against you was dismissed and the charges may not be refiled.

How do you get a dismissed misdemeanor expunged in California? ›

To expunge a misdemeanor in California, you have to (1) determine that you are eligible for expungement, (2) timely file the appropriate paperwork, and (3) attend the expungement hearing personally, or through a lawyer.

Can police see expunged records in California? ›

Once expunged, such records cannot be accessed for general law enforcement or civil use. However, under certain exceptional situations, the expunged records can be searched, retrieved, and used, but this occurs only in exceptional circ*mstances which normally require a court order or statutory authorization.

What is the new law for expungement in California 2023? ›

The California State Assembly passed SB 731 in June 2022 to allow some Californians to have their criminal records sealed if they maintain a clean record. The California State Senate approved SB 731 in August 2022. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 731 into law in September 2022. SB 731 took effect July 2023.

How do I seal a dismissed case in California? ›

To seal a record, an individual must file a petition and provide certain information about the offense and the disposition of the case. The court will review the petition and decide whether to grant the request to seal the record. Expungement refers to the process of legally destroying or dismissing a criminal record.

Can a dismissed case be reopened California? ›

The courts in California may dismiss a case either with or without prejudice. Cases dismissed with prejudice cannot be reopened. This could leave you wondering if a case can be reopened if it was dismissed without prejudice. After a dismissal without prejudice, a case may be refiled in Los Angeles.

How long does expungement take in California? ›

How long does a California Expungement take? Generally speaking, you can count on your expungement taking in the neighborhood of 90 to 120 days, but certain courts or older cases can take longer. Several factors impact the length of time an expungement takes to go through the court system.

What happens after request for dismissal California? ›

Once you get this filled out, you will file it with the court and your case number and then the clerk will enter your dismissal, and once that happens, then your case is officially dismissed, your lawsuit is over, and you can go on with the rest of your life.

What happens when a petition is dismissed? ›

The dismissal of a petition with prejudice by the OHA terminates the OHA's review of the petition and bars the petitioner from submitting any future petition concerning the same, or substantially the same, issues as those in the petition.

What is the difference between expungement and dismissal in California? ›

A "true" expungement seals arrest and conviction records. Dismissal under PC 1203.4 - external link does not seal the arrest or conviction. The case will still show up on a background check, but it will show up as dismissed.

Are misdemeanors automatically expunged in California? ›

Contrary to popular belief, misdemeanors in California are not automatically expunged with the passage of time, but require the filing and granting of an Expungement Petition by the Court.

How hard is it to get your record expunged in California? ›

Although true expungement does not exist in California, there may be options to clean your record depending on your situation. The law related to cleaning your record is complicated. If you ever get stuck, consider getting legal help.

What forms do I need for expungement in California? ›

California Penal Code section 1203.4a states the requirements of expunging a California misdemeanor, including completing and submitting form CR-180, the Petition for Dismissal. Note that you must submit the petition for expungement in the county of conviction.

Do I have to disclose an expunged felony in California? ›

You do have to disclose your conviction and that it was expunged if you are applying for a public license or for public sector employment. You have to disclose the conviction and expungement if running for public office. Disclose it if you are applying for a license or contract with the State Lottery Commission.

Do expunged records show up on fingerprinting California? ›

The agencies that have your record must destroy them or return them to you. That means there is no longer any record that you were ever involved in the justice system. If your record is expunged, it's not supposed to show up on an FBI fingerprint-based background check.

How long does it take for your record to clear after expungement in California? ›

How long does a California Expungement take? Generally speaking, you can count on your expungement taking in the neighborhood of 90 to 120 days, but certain courts or older cases can take longer. Several factors impact the length of time an expungement takes to go through the court system.

Is expungement worth it California? ›

As expressed in the California Penal Code 1203.4, expungement absolves a person of all discrimination and penalties that can result from a conviction. Other benefits include: Finding a job. Most employers today require a background check before hiring a job applicant.

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