The Orange County Public Defender "New Leaf Program" assists those who are seeking a fresh start and improved opportunities for employment, professional licensing or consumer credit.
If you've been convicted of a crime you may be eligible for relief through a relatively simple legal process. Some convictions can be modified on your record so that when you apply for most jobs, you can legally indicate that you were not convicted of that crime. Other convictions may be reduced from felony to misdemeanor status in certain situations. Also, Orange County residents who have completed a term in prison may be eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
A paralegal is available at the Orange County Public Defender's Main Office located at 14 Civic Center Plaza in Santa Ana to assist you in getting the process started. You can obtain the documents necessary to begin the process by clicking on the buttons on this page for the type of relief you are seeking. Download the application packets, fill them out as completely as possible, including the financial statement. Gather additional needed documentation such as letters of reference and certificates. You may mail or bring the completed packets into the Main Office. You may also request a packet be mailed to you by making a request by email or by calling (714) 834-2144 or toll free (866) 634-6224 during regular business hours.
QUICK REFERENCE TABLE
SEALING ARREST RECORDS - Download "Sealing Arrest Records" application forms
Sealing an Arrest Record: To qualify, the following must be true: 1) you were arrested in Orange County and NOT convicted; 2) you are factually innocent of the charges for which you were arrested; 3) no reasonable cause exists to believe that you committed the offense for which you were arrested; and 4) if more than 2 years has passed since your arrest, you have a valid reason for not requesting to seal the arrest record earlier and the prosecutor is not prejudiced by the delay in time. If all four of the above conditions are true, we may be able to seal and destroy the record of your arrest.
SEALING JUVENILE RECORDS - Download Information and Forms for Sealing Juvenile Records
Having a juvenile record may affect your life even once you have completed your juvenile probation. It may make it more difficult for you to get a job or to go to the college of your choice. Sealing your juvenile records can help you move on with your life.
The Orange County Public Defender’s Office will assist you in getting your juvenile records sealed. The process for getting your records sealed can be started:
This means that we can ask that your records be sealed. It is up to a judge to decide whether or not to seal your records.
Juvenile records that can be sealed include records of arrest and records relating to your case that are in the custody of the juvenile court and certain other agencies. Once your records are sealed, you can legally say that you were not adjudicated or even arrested for the matters that are sealed.
Not all records may be sealed. Records of certain serious offenses cannot be sealed. Also, the sealing of records does not apply to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records regarding specified offenses by the California Vehicle Code.
Please contact our Juvenile Court office for more information on this process (714) 935-7578 or toll free (877) 880-7788.
EARLY PROBATION TERMINATION - Download "Early Probation Termination" application forms
Early Termination of Probation: If you are still on probation and would like to terminate your probation early, we can help. In seeking this relief, you must have a good reason to make this request. For example, you have an offer for a job or are seeking a job that requires that you are not currently on probation or that as part of your plea agreement you were promised an early termination of probation upon the successful completion of certain terms and conditions of probation.
FELONY REDUCTION - Download "Felony Reduction" application forms
Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to 17b of the Penal Code: You may be eligible to have your felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor pursuant to 17b of the California Penal Code. If you are still on probation and as part of your disposition (plea) in your case, you were advised that after the fulfillment of certain terms and conditions you would receive a misdemeanor, we can help. Not all felonies are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors. Only felonies that are deemed to be “wobblers” may be reduced.
DISMISSALS - Download "Dismissal" application forms
(Formerly referred to as an "Expungement" under Penal Code section 1203.4) A conviction may be set aside and dismissed on your record so that when you apply for most jobs, you can legally indicate that you were not convicted of that crime. In order to qualify you must not be on probation or parole, you were not sentenced to state prison on this case, you are not currently charged with a crime and your conviction is from Orange County.
REHAB & PARDON - Download "Rehab & Pardon" application forms
Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon: Charges and convictions that resulted in a state prison sentence cannot be expunged (dismissed). You may however qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. You are eligible to apply for this relief if you currently reside in Orange County, it has been seven (7) years since your release from State Prison on Parole and you have NOT suffered any NEW convictions/violations since your release on Parole and you have resided in Orange County for the past five years. Once a Certificate of Rehabilitation is granted by an Orange County Superior Court judge, it is forwarded to the Governor’s Office as an application for a pardon.
LIVE SCAN - Download "Live Scan" application forms
Department of Justice rap sheets: If you have cases showing up on background checks, but you are unable to provide sufficient information regarding the case number and court location where the offense was processed due to the age of the case; it may be necessary for you to obtain a copy of your rap sheet to aid in locating the proper court to file for relief. Cases prior to the early ‘90s may not be readily located on computerized databases and may require further researching. You may obtain a copy of your own rap sheet by making application at locations throughout the state. We can provide you with the Orange County locations and the application form. After you make application, a copy of the rap sheet will be mailed to you. We can then help you interpret the information to assist in locating your old case.
1. What is the difference between an expungement and a dismissal?
The terms are used interchangeably in California regarding 1203.4 motions, however the word “expungement” is misleading by common definition. To “expunge” means “to strike out, obliterate…efface completely, destroy, blot-out, erase, wipe out, annihilate, annul, put an end to”. In criminal law “expungement” means “the eradication of a record of conviction or adjudication upon the fulfillment of prescribed conditions. In practical terms, the conviction is not “erased” from public view. Anyone who has access to public court websites can still view the case information. However the disposition of the case will reflect that it was “dismissed”.
2. Do I need to disclose a conviction that was dismissed to my employers or others who may do background checks?
You would be allowed to legally answer that you do not have a conviction for the charge that was dismissed. However, a background check may reveal the existence of the case, so it might be a better practice to state you were convicted, but the charge was later dismissed. For certain employment, you must disclose “cleared” convictions. This includes any direct question in a questionnaire or application for public office, any license by any state or local agency, or for a contract with the California State Lottery.
3. Do I need to go to court?
No, the court may rule on the request in chambers without appearances by you or the attorneys or the attorney may request a hearing date and have an opportunity to respond to any questions or concerns the judge may have. If a hearing date is set, you may be present if you wish, but it is not required.
4. I was told I could not get my felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Why not?
Not all felonies are eligible for reduction. A “wobbler” is a felony offense where the sentencing court has the authority by law to impose either a prison sentence or a local jail sentence. A number of offenses in the penal code and other codes are wobblers. If the sentencing court imposes a prison sentence, the wobbler becomes a felony permanently and cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. If the court grants probation, even with a local jail sentence, the court may reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. Even if the case was previously dismissed under Penal Code 1203.4, it is still possible to apply for a reduction of a wobbler to misdemeanor status.
5. My cases are old. Is there a time limit for getting my charge dismissed and/or reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor?
No, the age of the conviction is not relevant, but it is best to apply as soon as you are eligible, in case the court purges your file. Not having the file available may make it more difficult to present sufficient information in your petition to the court.
6. No one can find my case number, but the case is showing up on my background check. What can I do?
You may need to request a copy of your “rap sheet” to assist in locating the case detail and correct court. There is a charge to obtain the record, but we can provide you with the application form for “Live Scan” and locations in Orange County to obtain your criminal history. After completing the application process, the rap sheet is mailed directly to you in five days and can be useful to us in preparing your petition to the court.
7. I served time in state prison for a conviction in Los Angeles. Do I need to file for the Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon in Los Angeles County?
No, if you are currently a resident of Orange County and have been for the past five years and you are eligible to apply, you can use one application for convictions that occurred anywhere in the state. If your conviction resulting in a state prison sentence occurred in Orange County, but you do not live in Orange County, you must apply in the county where you are a resident.
8. Does the dismissal of my felony restore my right to own a concealable weapon?
9. My charge was for a sex offense and I am required to register as an offender. If my charge is dismissed, does the dismissal relieve me of the obligation to register?
10. What will this cost?
The Office of the Public Defender is available to assist persons who are financially unable to pay for the assistance of a private attorney. If it is determined that you do not qualify for our assistance upon review of your financial statement, we will return your documents so that you may obtain private counsel or file the paperwork on your own. The law allows that you may be required to reimburse the court for costs of services rendered, not to exceed $120.00. You may request that the court waive this reimbursement cost and/or request a hearing on your “ability to pay” as defined by Penal Code section 987.8. (You do not need to pay this cost at the time of the filing of your petition.)
11. What do I need to do to assist in getting my request granted?
Provide information in all the documents in the application packet as completely as possible, including the “Defendant’s Financial Statement”. Obtain three to five character reference letters and any certificates or awards obtained since your conviction.
12. How long will this take?
It depends on the relief requested, but the process does require patience. The average time is two to three months for most types of petitions, and much longer for Certificates of Rehabilitation & Pardons.
13. I have misdemeanor cases and felony cases in Orange County that I would like dismissed. Do I need to go to each court separately?
If you have at least one felony, we will open the file at our Main Office and assist you with seeking the dismissals at the branch courts by sending copies of your application packets and documents to the appropriate branch court. If you do not have a felony conviction, and only need assistance with a misdemeanor case, you should download the packet and mail or personally return it to our branch court office where your case was handled. The address information for each of our branch locations is available as a link on this page: OCPD Branch Offices.
For additional information email or call 714-834-2144 or toll free 866-634-6224.