Asking Court to Erase Criminal Record

Q. Fifteen years ago, I was sentenced to three months’ probation for trespassing. That is the only blot on my record, and I’m still ashamed of it. I’m 69 years old and it bothers me that after I die, there will still be a record somewhere of my violation of law.

Please tell me if there is any law which would help me clear my record.




A. A defendant, who has successfully fulfilled the conditions of probation, can petition the court in which the case was heard to withdraw a guilty plea. The court can then dismiss the charge against the defendant.

In order to qualify for this provision, a defendant must not be currently serving any sentence, be on probation for any offense or be charged with any crime.

There are forms which must be submitted to the court in order to obtain this type of action. You or your attorney can get them from the clerk of the court that heard your case. You should be aware, however, that although the court may dismiss the charge against you, you are not relieved from your obligation to disclose your conviction: In the event of any direct question in an application for public office, for licensing by any state or local agency, or for the California State Lottery. Your conviction may also appear on any arrest record but will reflect that it has been dismissed under this law.

There may also be a fee charged by the county for this service. Each county may determine the amount of that fee.

Q. What is the law regarding money taken by the police during a search?

My son, who lives with me, was arrested for selling drugs. The police came to my house and searched it for evidence against him. Among other things, they took some cash, my jewelry and my husband’s computer as “evidence” of my son being a drug dealer.

My son has since pleaded guilty and is serving his sentence. My husband and I would like to get our things back. One of my neighbors said that once the police take things, it’s gone for good. Is this true?


Huntington Beach

A. The law allows the state to forfeit certain types of property which are connected with the sales of drugs. This would include such things as money, securities and anything of value, such as jewelry, which were given or received in exchange for drugs. These items could also be forfeited if they were purchased from the proceeds of the sale.

A computer, computer programs and software can also be forfeited if they are connected with a drug sale.

A person who is claiming an interest in the property and believes that its forfeiture would be improper may petition the court for its return. You should contact an attorney as to the advisability of doing this and the proper way in which this should be done.

B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers’ questions about the law.