Dismissal & Expungement

In California, the courts may dismiss a criminal conviction for juveniles generally and for adults after a certain period of time. This benefits those applying for some jobs and others who simply want their record to be "clean." Dismissal is also commonly called "expungement." Napa County Courts provides information on dismissals.


People who were arrested while under eighteen years old are usually eligible to have their arrest record expunged and sealed. This means no one may access those records with certain exceptions (law enforcement and federal government agencies). The Yolo County Office of the Public Defender provides a good resource for those interested in sealing their juvenile records.


For adults conviction records are not "sealed" like juveniles; instead, adult convictions may be "dismissed" or "expunged." Though dismissals still appear on an individual's record, this process will change how your record appears: instead of the word "conviction" your record will read "dismissed." This can be helpful when applying for some jobs and for personal gratification of having a "clean record."

Whether the judge may, must or is allowed to dismiss a conviction depends on what type of crime was committed. Many misdemeanors must be dismissed if certain requirements have been met, others may be dismissed if the judge believes it is appropriate. You may also request, at the same time, that certain offenses be reduced to a misdemeanor. This only applies to crimes which can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony (commonly called "wobblers").


Before any conviction is eligible for dismissal under Penal Code §1203.4, you must meet certain requirements:

  • You may not be on probation or parole.
  • Often courts will allow those complying with the terms of probation to terminate their probation early - usually once they are halfway through their probation term, e.g., if you've been given 3 years of probation and have completed 18 months successfully, you can ask the judge to terminate your probation early.
  • You may not be serving a sentence.
  • You may not have pending criminal proceedings (e.g., a new case, a sentencing hearing, etc).
  • You must have met the conditions of probation when (and if) you were on probation
  • It will greatly assist you or your attorney to know of all your California convictions. You can request this information from the California Department of Justice.
  • You must complete a "Petition to Withdraw Plea or Set Aside Verdict of Guilty and Dismissal of Case" and other documents available at Napa County Courts expungement page

Not all convictions are not eligible for dismissal (some sex offenses and vehicle code violations).

Remaining Consequences

Getting a conviction dismissed relieves a person of many of the penalties and problems associated with a conviction. However, some consequences do remain: The conviction may still be used to increase a sentence for any new conviction a person may receive in the future. For example, the conviction could be alleged as a "strike" prior under the Three Strikes Law, or it may be used to turn a misdemeanor charge into a felony; possession or ownership of firearms remains unlawful; the conviction must be disclosed in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for state or local license, or contracting with the California State Lottery; and, in some cases a person may not be relieved of his or her duty to register as a sex offender.

Probation officers may make application to set aside a conviction. The court may require the person to pay a fee for having his or her plea or verdict set aside. In Napa, these fees are at or less than $120.

Marijuana Possession Offenses

Generally, anyone convicted of marijuana possession for personal use or transportation (both are misdemeanors) will have their record of conviction destroyed after two years automatically. However, there is no guarantee that these records will be destroyed so it is wise to confirm their destruction. Other drug convictions do not disappear from your record absent a dismissal.


This site is meant to provide information of a general nature which you should verify with an attorney before relying upon it. It does not provide legal advice and is not meant to establish an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice you should ALWAYS contact an attorney.