Have you or someone you know been arrested and released on detention-only release? Do you understand what this means for your legal rights and options? Penal Code 849 is an important part of California law that can impact the outcome of your personal and professional life. In this blog, we will demystify Penal Code 849 and help you understand the process of detention-only releases. We will also cover the benefits of California law and how it can help seal your arrest record. Most importantly, we will guide you through your legal options and provide helpful information to make the most informed decisions about your getting this event hidden and sealed for good. Keep reading to learn more about Penal Code 849 and how it affects you.

What is Penal Code 849 and Why is it Important?

Penal Code 849 documents an arrest as a detention-only under specific circumstances–this negates the arrest entirely for purposes of your criminal record. The law relieves those accused of crimes and their families in navigating the legal system. Therefore, utilizing the 849 Detention-Only Release Certificate can be extremely beneficial.

Sealing Your Arrest

After receiving a notice from the arresting agency that the “arrest” was a detention only, one can immediately petition to seal your arrest from public view.  Click Here to Learn More

Sealing your arrest can be beneficial for several reasons like preventing background checks from using that information in future job screenings. To seal an arrest record in California quickly and efficiently, it helps to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Eligibility criteria must be considered before applying for sealing such as domestic violence related facts or those involving child abuse. Due to the mirky nature of many domestic violence cases, applicants are likely to get pushback from most local prosecutorial agencies when seeking to seal the arrest record shortly after the event occurred.

Understanding “Detention-Only” Release & Why it Exists

Detention-only release differs from other forms of release and has distinct legal requirements under Penal Code 849. Under most circumstances, a record of release often comes in the form of a “Promise to Appear” or a “Release on Bail” certificate. This means that the case is under review by the District Attorney and that formal criminal charges will be following soon.

But for many who were arrested for victimless offenses or where prosecutorial discretion undermines the reasons to file formal charges, the accused may receive immediate delivery of what the true status of their case is so that they are not left in the dark. It is no wonder why a detention only is warranted when considering that the following circumstances propel someone for being eligible for this kind of treatment: public intoxication (drunk in public or disorderly conduct), under the influence of alcohol or the influence of a controlled substance, suffering from a mental disorder or who underwent a mental health evaluation, those sent to an urgent care facility or who received medical treatment, and where insufficient grounds exists to make a formal filing. A private person arrest may also be overruled by official review of the event. The paragraph explaining the circumstances offered for arrested person provides the public a clear understanding of why things never went much further past that.

In short, for cases where a peace officer makes an arrest without a warrant, and where the subdivision of §849 allows it, the record of arrest of a person subject to this statute is transformed for their legal benefit.

The code also refers to an accessible magistrate. This is sometimes misunderstood to mean that a judge will still look over the case, however, this is no longer needed.

Benefits of California Law and Similar States

Detention-only release under California Penal Code section 849 provides immense benefits to those who have been arrested in many states, but especially in California.

Individuals may avoid jail or further legal proceedings such as answering to a criminal complaint. The arrestee therefore avoids unnecessary delay in seeking a court disposition. In the grand scheme of things, this also helps reduce overcrowding in jails and taxpayer burden.

But the ultimate benefit falls into the availability to petition the court to official seal the arrest record.

Your Guide to Legal Options

If you are granted detention-only release under Penal Code 849, it is crucial to understand your legal options. These include starting the Arrest Seal Process to seal your arrest record and pursuing further proceedings if you believe that your detention was unlawful. More importantly however, you must know that not all criminal charges are treated the same when seeking to petition the court for this kind of relief.

If the arrest was for a misdemeanor offense, it is crucial to know that any petition within 1 year will be reviewed with discretion. In other words, the specific charges may prevent the Court from allowing you to seal the arrest as a matter of right. Most misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of one year. Therefore, filing such a petition after one year make the petition almost mandatory.


In summary, Penal Code 849 is a crucial aspect of the California legal system that provides options for individuals who have been arrested but not charged with a crime. Detention-only release is highly beneficial for those who need to return to their daily lives and work instead of waiting for their case to proceed.

However, understanding the intricacies of Penal Code 849 and navigating the legal system can be challenging. It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and help protect your rights. If you’re facing a legal issue related to Penal Code 849, contact us today for a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.

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About the Author: Bart Kaspero

Bart Kaspero is an experienced criminal defense and regulatory attorney who has focused on using technology and the law in bringing privacy to criminal records. His research has been published in several legal journals and his unique background has helped a broad spectrum of clients. He has provided legal training to lawyers across the US on how to navigate complex criminal record legislation and how to effectively provide privacy to those with past arrests, charges, and convictions. His innovative methods have earned him a top position of authority on the subject of criminal record privacy as well as trust within the criminal data supply chain.