If your job prospects have dimmed because of a criminal record, you may want to consider pursuing expungement. In California, it is possible to have some convictions removed — or expunged — from your records. Your criminal defense attorney can help you determine if you qualify for expungement and begin the process.
How Does Expungement Work?
In most cases, the public — including prospective employers — can access criminal records. In some jurisdictions, expungement can mean that a criminal conviction is lessened or removed entirely from your records, as if it never happened.
In California, though, expungement refers to a guilty verdict or plea being reversed and charges dismissed; it does not completely erase the criminal record.
Under California Penal Code 1203.4, an approved expungement does not seal a criminal record from public view. In other words, the strict definition of “expungement” simply does not apply in California.
Despite an expungement, a conviction will remain on your criminal record for many possible uses, including tracking of sex offenders and immigration issues. An expungement effectively relieves you of any penalties for the conviction, with some limitations.
Who Is Eligible?
If you’ve completed probation, you may be eligible for expungement under state law. If you are still on probation or are serving a sentence for any type of offense, you are not eligible.
If the court did not grant probation in your case, however, you may not qualify for expungement. And if you received a reduction in your sentence to infraction level, you’re probably eligible.
Individuals seeking expungement are required to wait a year following conviction to apply.
Why Pursue Expungement?
Expungement can provide you with a number of benefits, including:
- A notation in your criminal record that the charges were dismissed.
- The right to answer on most job applications that you do not have a criminal conviction. Exceptions include government jobs and positions requiring security clearance.
- A possible later pardon for a felony conviction.
The Expungement Process in California
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you apply for expungement in California. You’ll need to submit the appropriate paperwork to the court in which the conviction occurred, along with a filing fee. If you’re unable to pay the fee, the court may waive it.
Requesting an expungement for an infraction or misdemeanor generally requires less information than does a request relating to DUI, driving with a suspended license and similar violations. Your attorney will need to submit even more information if you request expungement of a felony, and a motion must be submitted along with the petition.
You likely will need to appear for a court hearing as part of the expungement process. It typically takes about eight to 10 weeks for the court to make a decision.
Along with learning about the advantages of seeking expungement, it’s important to understand that some rights are not reinstated. If the court grants your expungement:
- Your conviction will remain as part of your criminal record. Both FBI and California state records will continue to show the conviction and the subsequent dismissal.
- If your right to own firearms was removed as part of the conviction, it may not be reinstated.
- You still will be required to include your conviction on applications for any licenses issued by the government.
- The conviction still can be considered if a court hands down punishment for a later conviction.
- The conviction may be used against you in immigration matters.
- If you have been required to register as a sex offender, you will need to remain registered. Once you’re eligible, you can request a Certificate of Rehabilitation, which ends the registration responsibility.
- Your criminal record will remain available for public review. Probation reports are not available to the public beginning 90 days after a sentence, however.
Consult with a Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you believe you may benefit from having your criminal record expunged, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine your eligibility. To learn more, please contact Lance Daniel, Attorney at Law.