Penal Code section 851.8 does not violate due process by requiring the statute of limitations for a crime to lapse before a petition to be deemed factually innocent may be adjudicated. Bedrossian was arrested on suspicion of felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery. The district attorney declined to press charges, and Bedrossian successfully moved to have his arrest deemed a detention (Pen. Code, § 849.5). He also filed a petition pursuant to section 851.8 to be found factually innocent of all charges and to have the record of his arrest destroyed. The trial court denied the petition on the ground that, under section 851.8, subdivision (b), it may not be presented until the statute of limitations has run (one year for the misdemeanor and three years for the felony). Bedrossian appealed, arguing that insofar as section 851.8 requires the statute of limitations to lapse before the petition can be adjudicated, the statute violates his state right to procedural due process. Held: Affirmed. Procedural due process under the California Constitution focuses on an individual’s due process liberty interest to be free from arbitrary adjudicative procedures and protects a broader range of interests than the federal Constitution. Applying the factors set forth in People v. Ramirez (1979) 25 Cal.3d 260, the Court of Appeal here determined the timing restrictions in section 851.8 do not violate procedural due process. Although Bedrossian (an oral surgeon who performs surgeries for charities and testifies as an expert witness) has a substantial interest in protecting his reputation as a law-abiding citizen, the governmental interest of ensuring that law enforcement agencies have sufficient time to investigate and prosecute suspected crimes justifies the statute’s timing restrictions. Further, the risk of harm due to the delay in destruction of arrest records has been largely mitigated by other statutes.
There is no denial of equal protection in permitting those arrested on misdemeanor offenses to file a petition to be found factually innocent within one year, whereas those arrested on felony offenses must wait at least three years. Bedrossian also argued that his federal right to equal protection was denied because those who were arrested on, but never charged with, misdemeanor offenses may petition the court after one year, while individuals who were arrested on, but never charged with, felony offenses must wait three years to do so. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Persons charged with misdemeanors and persons charged with felonies are not similarly situated. Even if they were, the difference in treatment is rational because felonies are more serious than misdemeanors. Although the initial charging recommendation is made by the arresting officer, it is not an arbitrary determination. A lawful warrantless felony arrest requires a showing of probable cause. Because felonies are more serious, the Legislature reasonably adopted a lengthier statute of limitations to allow for proper investigation. The application of different waiting periods under section 851.8 does not violate equal protection.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A151917.PDF