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, reductions, 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.

California workers with criminal records—know your employment rights

If You Are Denied Employment Based on Your Criminal Record

If you were denied employment or lost your job because of your criminal record within the last 300 days, you are African-American or Latino, and the company has 15 or more employees, you may have an employment discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces Title VII, has acknowledged that African-American and Latino workers are arrested and/or convicted at a disproportionately higher rate and as a result recognizes that some employer hiring policies may form the basis of a race discrimination claim.

Employers must justify employment decisions based on arrests or convictions. Your conviction must be “job-related”, which is determined by taking into account the nature and gravity of the offense or offenses, and the nature of the job held or sought; and the conviction must still be relevant given the time that has passed since conviction and/or completion of sentence. For a rejection based solely upon an arrest that did not result in conviction, the employer must also investigate whether or not the conduct alleged actually occurred. In addition, blanket employer policies rejecting all applicants with criminal records violate Title VII.

National Employment Law Project

Title VII Enforcement Initiative

The EEOC is the federal agency that investigates charges of employment discrimination. You must file a charge with the EEOC before you can sue a company for discriminating against you.

NELP can evaluate your case and possibly help you file a Title VII charge with the EEOC. To learn more about your rights under Title VII, contact NELP. In order to preserve your rights, you should file a charge as soon as possible, and must file within 300 days of the discriminatory act.

Phone: (510) 409-2427.*
*Please call first to obtain information and schedule an appointment.

More information and programs can be found at the following:

The Contra Cost County Office of the Public Defender offers a Clean Slate Program for criminal convictions suffered in Contra Costa County courts.

Root & Rebound, an Oakland, Calif. — based legal service provider and advocacy organization, offers the 1,192-page Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide covering legal issues to educate those leaving prison, and a legal hotline for those who further need help.

Rubicon Programs Inc has been empowering people to move out of poverty and improve their quality of life since 1973.

Their Rubicon Legal Services is a Contra Costa-based provider of legal services to low income residents.

What Can You Do About Your Criminal Record? is an easily printable chart in pdf format with some basic information on what can be done for various convictions.

The Papillon Foundation

P.O. Box 7438
Reno, NV 89510

This organization 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.
Clean slate clinics

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.

Alameda County:

Wiley W Manuel
Superior Courthouse
Self-Help Center, 2nd Floor
661 Washington St
Oakland, CA 94607
Tuesdays & Thursdays
9 am to 12 noon

Eden Area One-Stop Career Center
24100 Amador Street 3rd Floor
Hayward, CA 94544
11 am to 12 pm

East Bay Community Law Center 2921 Adeline Street Berkeley, CA 94703

Alameda County Clean Slate: 510-548-4040 ext 357 or 510-259-3501

Contra Costa County:

Office of the Public Defender
3811 Bissell Ave
Richmond, CA 94804

800 Ferry Street Martinez, CA 94553 925-335-8000

Get Your Rap Sheet

Alameda County Sheriff’s Department
15001 Foothill Boulevard
San Leandro, CA 94578-1092

Office of the Sheriff Contra Costa County Records Unit
500 Court Street
Martinez, CA 94553

A few more helpful websites:

Alameda County Superior Court Self Help Site – Self-help site for those representing themselves.

Virtual Self-Help Law Center – Self-help law center for Contra Costa County.

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

US Department of Justice – Reentry page.

A few more addresses that you might find helpful:

Alameda County:

Alameda County Public Defender’s Office
1401 Lakeside Drive Suite 400
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 272-6600
Fax: (510) 272-6610

Alameda County Criminal Division Clerk’s Office
(to obtain expungement application)
1225 Fallon Street Room 107
Oakland, CA 94612-4253

Contra Costa County:

West County Branch
(convictions out of the Richmond Court)
3811 Bissell Avenue
Richmond, CA 94805
Phone: (510) 374-3233
Fax: (510) 374-3339

Central/East Branch (convictions out of the Martinez Court)
800 Ferry Street
Martinez, CA 94553
Phone: (925) 335-8000
Fax: (925) 335-8030

Contra Costa County Workforce Services’ Clean Slate Program
(For work related matters)
Phone: (925) 335-8000

San Francisco City and County:

San Francisco Public Defender’s Office – Clean Slate Program
555 Seventh Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 553-9337
Fax: (415) 553-9646

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