Will A Protest-Related Arrest Remain On My California Criminal Record Forever?
With the surge in activism around California and the country, you might wonder what, if any, are the long-term consequences of a protest-related arrest in California.
One potential consequence is that the arrest will pop-up down the line on a criminal background check in California. Unless you are never charged, or you get off with a dismissal or infraction (which is punished by a fine and not considered a “crime” in California), you can anticipate a protest-related arrest to follow you in terms of your criminal record for at least some purposes into the future.
When it comes to your official California Department of Justice "rap sheet," an arrest for something like resisting arrest or misdemeanor trespass remains forever, even if ultimately dismissed or expunged. But your rap sheet is highly confidential, so this may have little practical impact on future job or other prospects.
Things are more flexible when it comes to criminal background checks generated by private record search companies. When those companies run criminal background checks in California for a private employer, they are not permitted to include arrests that are not followed by convictions or convictions that are more than seven years old.
Further, if you are convicted and comply with all the conditions of your probation, you will be able to have the conviction expunged (or "dismissed in the interest of justice"), in which case it should not show up on your criminal record and you will not have to disclose it to a future employer.
State licensing agencies, however, will still be able to inquire about your expunged convictions.
Committed individuals who put themselves on the line to advance a cause may well consider any resulting and potentially indelible arrest a badge of honor. But even the most inspired activists would agree that it’s wise to take note of what the law is today…even as they envision what it might be tomorrow.