If a person has ever been arrested in California and fingerprinted, that person has a California criminal record, which is a record of arrest, conviction, and disposition history. This criminal record is commonly referred to as a RAP SHEET.
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) in Sacramento is responsible for maintaining all criminal records or RAP SHEETS in California. The DOJ keeps track of arrests (anytime a person is fingerprinted by law enforcement) in California only; State and local juvenile and criminal courts also send information to the DOJ. After a case is adjudicated (decided), the court contacts the DOJ to report the outcome or disposition. Dispositions usually fall into one of these categories: NOT CONVICTED, DISMISSED, ACQUITTED, and CONVICTED.
Federal arrests and arrests from other states do not appear on a California rap sheet. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) keeps a comprehensive list of a person’s nationwide arrests, both state and federal, and the DOJ record has a notation of the person’s FBI computer code number.
A conviction is generally a guilty plea or a court’s finding of guilt for a crime or offense. A plea of “no contest” (for purposes of criminal records) is equal to a guilty plea. Criminal convictions are determined by both the disposition of the case and the classification of the offense (infraction, felony, or misdemeanor). For example, if your record shows Penal Code Section 1000 (a drug diversion program), this is usually based upon a guilty plea and completed probation. Note that in this case; the guilty plea is not considered a conviction.
A person can have a conviction even though the person never served time in jail. Court decrees of probation, fines, community service, or conditional sentences are all convictions. The disposition entry on a criminal record contains information about the type of offense for which the person was convicted.
The following types of offenses may appear on your record:
Infraction: A non-criminal case for which the penalty may consist of a fine but not imprisonment. Although most infractions are traffic-related, some common non-traffic infractions include a first conviction for loitering in a transit facility and a first conviction for trespass. A conviction for an infraction does not constitute a criminal conviction because you cannot serve jail time on a conviction for an infraction.
Misdemeanor: A criminal offense that may result in a fine and a maximum of 1 year in county jail, Common misdemeanors include driving under the influence, domestic violence, possession of small amounts of marijuana, disorderly conduct, and misdemeanor assault. A conviction for a misdemeanor offense is considered a criminal conviction.
Felony: A serious criminal offense punishable by a sentence of imprisonment in state prison for more than one year. Some common felony charges are: possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell controlled substances, burglary, robbery, arson, carjacking, felony driving under the influence with bodily injury to another person, and felony assault. If you are convicted of a felony, you may not be deemed a felon for life.
Note that some offenses are what law enforcement call a “wobbler” because the specific crime may be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances and/or specifics at the time of the arrest. The good news is that any offense that “wobbles” into a felony may be “wobbled” back into a misdemeanor. For example: driving under the influence, battery with serious bodily injury, petty theft (with just about any prior conviction), simple grand theft, and receiving stolen property. However, if your case is a wobbler and you did not go to prison, and you complete probation you may be able to have your case reduced to misdemeanor for all purposes under penal code section 17(b)(3).There are a surprising number of offenses that fall into this category. Call our office to see if your offense can be reduced to a misdemeanor.