Does Sealing Under PC 851.91 Remove it from a DOJ Live Scan Report?

January 30, 2024


The process of sealing an arrest record under California Penal Code (PC) 851.91 is often misunderstood. Many believe that this legal remedy wipes an arrest completely off their record. However, the reality is more nuanced. This article aims to clarify what sealing an arrest record under PC 851.91 entails and how it differs from obtaining a certificate of factual innocence under PC 851.8.

What Does Sealing an Arrest Record Under PC 851.91 Mean?

Sealing an arrest record under PC 851.91 doesn’t erase the arrest from one’s formal criminal record. Instead, it restricts public access to the information related to the arrest. This means that while the arrest still exists in legal databases, it becomes invisible to most public inquiries, including employers conducting background checks. The sealed records remain accessible only to certain government agencies and the individuals themselves, typically through a live scan report.

The Common Misconception: Sealing vs. Wiping Clean

There’s a prevalent misconception that sealing an arrest record is synonymous with erasing it. However, sealing under PC 851.91 is more about restricting access than eradicating history. The arrest remains a part of one’s formal criminal history, but it’s hidden from the public eye. This distinction is crucial for individuals seeking to understand the implications of sealing their records and how it might impact their future.

Obtaining a Certificate of Factual Innocence: A Different Remedy

For those looking to completely remove an arrest from their record, the appropriate legal remedy is obtaining a certificate of factual innocence under PC 851.8. This process is significantly different from sealing an arrest record. It involves proving that there was no reasonable cause to believe that the individual committed the offense for which they were arrested. Obtaining this certificate is a more challenging process, but it results in the arrest being treated as if it never occurred.

Eligibility for Sealing Under PC 851.91

To be eligible for sealing under PC 851.91, specific criteria must be met. It requires that the individual was not convicted of the crime for which they were arrested. This includes scenarios where the case was dismissed, charges were never filed, or the defendant was acquitted. Understanding these eligibility requirements is key for individuals considering this option.


Navigating the nuances of sealing an arrest record under PC 851.91 is essential for individuals seeking to mitigate the impact of past arrests on their lives. While it doesn’t erase the arrest from their criminal history, it offers a degree of privacy and protection from public scrutiny. For those seeking complete removal of an arrest, pursuing a certificate of factual innocence is the more appropriate, albeit more challenging, path. By understanding these legal remedies and their differences, individuals can make informed decisions about managing their criminal records.

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