California has long allowed those with criminal convictions on their record to get them "expunged" (dismissed) provided the individual and the specific conviction to be expunged meet a set of qualifications.
Today, record expungement is more common than ever in Los Angeles and throughout California, as is sealing of arrest records, and a number of other similar actions that can help prevent a past police record from following you the rest of your life.
At Record Expungement Attorney, we have been assisting people in the L.A. Area successfully complete the expungement and/or record clearing process for many years. We have an intricate knowledge of state law on these matters and deep experience at how the process works in local Southern California courts.
If you are interested in finding out how to put the past behind you through expungement or other related legal actions, contact us 24/7 at 424-835-9505 for a free consultation. We can assess if you qualify for expungement or other benefits, and if so, guide you step by step as you clear up your California police record.
WHAT IS "RECORD EXPUNGEMENT" IN CALIFORNIA?
Under California Penal Code Section 1203.4, a past criminal conviction can be "expunged" (dismissed) after a certain period of time and under very specific conditions.
Expungement is allowed in order to let those who have been convicted of a crime in years past but who have now become law abiding members of society, and otherwise have mitigating factors in their favor, to escape the lifelong "punishment" of being turned down for jobs, college enrollment, apartment leases, professional licenses, and more because their past keeps coming up on background checks.
Expungement allows you to truthfully say "no" when asked if you have a criminal record on a job application form. It gives you a chance at a "fresh start" in life in regard to your past police record in that background checks will now show "case dismissed" where they once stated "conviction."
WHO CAN GET AN EXPUNGEMENT IN CALIFORNIA?
There are very specific qualifications that must be met before you can get a past criminal offense expunged from the record. If you don't qualify for expungement, it's possible you could qualify for another form of "record clearing" action - so don't automatically give up before even talking to an experienced expungement lawyer.
In general, only misdemeanors and wobblers can be expunged. "Wobblers" are offenses that may have been charged as a felony but that could have been charged as a misdemeanor. In this case of wobbler felony convictions, you would probably have to first get the felony reduced to a misdemeanor before you could get it finally expunged.
If you are currently being charged with or are under investigation for a new criminal offense, you won't qualify for expungement at this time. If you were convicted under federal law or spent time for the offense in California state prison, you also will not qualify for expungement.
If you have new convictions on your record following the one you want expunged, your chances of expungement are not good.
If you are currently on probation for the relevant conviction, you are supposed to first complete the probationary period before making a petition for an expungement - BUT, there are sometimes ways around that rule. IF you file for and receive early termination of your probation, you may be able to immediately file for record expungement as well.
WHO DOES NOT QUALIFY FOR RECORD EXPUNGEMENT?
We need to say a little more about who can't get their record expunged, and also mention some of the exceptions to these rules.
We already mentioned one exception above - while you "can't" get a record expunged without first successfully completing probation," you "can" often get the probationary period ended early in order to then qualify for expungement.
But you have to have met the terms of your probation up the point you are at, duly paying fines and restitution monies, attending counseling sessions, showing up for court on time, and the like.
BUT, even if you have one or two minor probation violations, a judge may allow you to get approved for early termination of probation and then file for expungement IF a good lawyer can successfully argue why to should be done in a court hearing.
You "can't" get approved for expungement if you spent time in prison for the offense, but if you would have only spent time in county jail had you been convicted before "Realignment," then you may still be able to qualify. Realignment refers to a time when incarceration and other sentencing elements for various California crimes underwent a major adjustment. Prop 47, for example, was a key component in the Realignment process.
Finally, also be aware that certain particular offenses cannot be expunged, such as PC 286 Sodomy Against a Child, PC 261.5 Statutory Rape (by one 21 or older of one 16 or under), and various other serious felonies, violent crimes, or crimes against children or the elderly.
HOW DOES THE RECORD EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS WORK?
We at Record Expungement Attorney can assess whether or not you will be eligible for expungement of one or more convictions on your record. We can then guide you step by step through the expungement process.
FILING THE PETITION
There are many details and deadlines that have to be adhered to in filing the paperwork, and many legal protocols to adhere to during the hearing. Unless every step is handled wisely, it could result in delays or even the ultimate denial of your expungement petition.
For example, each petition for expungement must be filed in the court where you were charged with the offense, and a separate petition must be filed for each offense you want expunged. Record Expungement Attorney can handle multiple expungement filings for you simultaneously, and can also file for early termination of probation if necessary.
When you file for expungement, there will be a filing fee due, ranging from county to county from $60 to $270 at present. In Los Angeles County, a fee is due after the court makes a ruling on the motion and it isn't officially called a "filing fee." In all California counties, you pay more to file for a felony expungement than for a misdemeanor expungement - but also in all counties, there is financial aid you can access if you can't afford the fee and you meet basic criteria.
THE EXPUNGEMENT HEARING
The prosecution may or may not challenge the expungement petition. But if they do, it will be all the more important to have a well-seasoned expungement attorney arguing your case during the hearing. The presiding judge at the hearing can accept or deny the expungement request, so everything culminates at the hearing.
You do not have to appear personally for the hearing, most likely, if you do not wish. A lawyer is allowed to represent you instead and handle the whole process with your consent.
If the judge denies your petition, he or she will give you a list of reasons if you ask for them. That will give you information on how to make adjustments before filing again. But, in fact, the great majority of expungement requests will be approved if handled by an experienced attorney.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
In general, it takes from 30 to 60 days to go through the whole expungement process. The exact amount of time depends on the nature of the offense to be expunged, whether or not the prosecution puts up a fight, which county you file in, and other factors.
We at Record Expungement Attorney can do everything possible to minimize the wait. And in cases where a client is getting ready to submit an important job application, wants to apply for college before he/she misses the next semester, or has other personal deadlines, we can often expedite the process even more.
HOW DOES THE PROCESS END?
After one to two months of effort, waiting, and expense, how do you know that the expungement was approved? You will be given a signed order by the presiding judge to that effect. You may or may not know immediately following the hearing, but the answer will soon be revealed.
Note that expungement does not equal sealing [see more on Sealing of Records below]. Background checks can still be run by anyone on you since criminal records are public. And the entry of the conviction will not be "blank," but it will show "dismissed" in accord with PC 1203.4.
Thus, it will show you've "taken care of it" but will not simply "erase all trace" of the record. For that, you would need the record sealed and destroyed.
WHAT EXPUNGEMENT CAN AND CANNOT DO
As you go into the expungement process, it's important to understand from the outset what exactly expungement can and cannot do.
Once a conviction is expunged, it will show as dismissed on your police record instead of as a conviction. But it will not simply not show anything at all on the record, as in a complete erasure.
Employers are legally bound to not discriminate against those with an expunged offense on their record. And you can legally answer "no" when asked if you were ever convicted for an offense that has now been expunged.
The only exception to your not having to answer "yes" to this question is if you are applying for a law enforcement, public official, or state lotto position - OR if you are applying for a state issued professional license. [In the latter case, see the Certificate of Detainment & Certificate of Rehabilitation sections below.]
You will find it easier to obtain a good job, earn a state-issued professional license, get a good apartment lease, get approved for enrollment in a college or grad school, and in other ways seek to better your future once past convictions have been expunged from your record.
If called upon to be a witness in a court case (where you are not the one being prosecuted), an expunged offense cannot be used to legally destroy your credibility as a witness.
And there are immigration consequences, including possible deportation, that may be prevented due to expungement as well.
However, there are some limitations on what expungement can do. It cannot, for example, automatically restore firearms rights lost due to a felony conviction.
It cannot undo a California driver's license suspension/revocation due to DUI or another cause. Nor can expungement remove the requirement to register as a sex offender
Furthermore, expunged convictions still count as priors if you are convicted of that offense or another relevant offense later on. And this has implications for future DUIs or for any violent crimes where California's Three Strikes Law comes into play.
Thus, there are some limits to what an expungement can accomplish, but nonetheless, it can have a huge impact on one's future career and life.
There was a day when expungements weren't that important because virtually no one but police agencies had easy access to criminal records. But today, voluminous online databases make it possible for employers and others to view these records in very short order (often with only seconds' wait time). That makes it critical to improve your record as much as possible in order to stand the best chances of approval on job and other applications - especially when there is so much competition for open employment positions these days.
OTHER OPTIONS BESIDES RECORD EXPUNGEMENT
At Record Expungement Attorney, we can help you get your criminal record convictions expunged whenever you meet the eligibility requirements set by state law. And we can help you apply for an early termination of probation or a reduction of a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor in preparation for filing for expungement.
But there are other services too we provide when expungement may not be the answer - or, as the case may be, in addition to an expungement petition you file.
SEALING OF RECORDS
First of all, we can assist you in sealing adult or juvenile criminal records. This refers to arrest records, however, and not to conviction records as with expungement.
An adult arrest record in normally open to public view, but there are many instances in which it can be sealed, meaning "taken off the public record." In that case, only law enforcement agencies can view the record, and a few other situations like a prosecutor in a criminal case could arise where the records might be accessible. But basically, almost no one will ever be able to look at them again once sealed.
To qualify for arrest record sealing in California, at least one of the following must be true of the arrest in questions:
- No charges were ever filed in court.
- The case was dismissed.
- You were found "not guilty."
- You were convicted but the conviction was overturned by an appellate court.
- You completed a Prop 36 diversion program.
- You completed a PC 1000 deferred entry of judgment program.
It is generally even easier to seal a juvenile record. If you are now an adult, or in some cases if the juvenile court's jurisdiction ended at least 5 years ago, and you have not been convicted (as an adult) of any other serious crimes, you can almost certainly have the juvenile record sealed - UNLESS the arrest was for the crimes of murder, robbery, or child molestation.
A juvenile record, once sealed, remains sealed for three years. After that, it will be destroyed entirely.
Once an arrest record is sealed, be it for an adult or juvenile offense, you can legitimately say you were never arrested for said crime in the state of California.
Juvenile records can be sealed both as to arrests and offenses. Adult records can be sealed for either as well, but it's more difficult to seal adult conviction records - and the prosecution will likely challenge it. But, while most adult record sealing is for arrests only, sometimes you can go through a process of plea withdrawal and case dismissal and then get them sealed as to previous convictions.
CERTIFICATE OF DETAINMENT
In some cases, a better approach when applying for certain state issued professional licenses is to seek a certificate of detainment rather than an arrest record sealing.
The difference is that a certificate of detainment is a statement from the "arresting" agency that you were not technically arrested as such, but only "detained" by police during the relevant incident.
The difference between an arrest and a detainment is pretty thin legally, and the boundaries can be vague. But a signed certificate from a law enforcement agency asserting it was a detainment only can make a big difference in some instances.
CERTIFICATE OF REHABILITATION
Another way you can help yourself get approved on an application for a state of California professional license is with a certificate of rehabilitation (COR).
A COR has the force of a court order. It simply says that the recipient of the certificate has now been "rehabilitated" from his or her criminal past, in regard to a particular offense(s).
You can't apply for a COR until between 7 and 10 years have passed from your release date - the exact amount of wait time required depending on the nature of the offense.
A COR is only used when a conviction occurred; it is not used simply for arrests.
You cannot legally be denied a state-issued license simply because of a criminal conviction for which you have a certificate of rehabilitation. The rehabilitated status will show to employers who run a background check on you. And finally, anyone who receives a certificate of rehabilitation gets an automatic application for a pardon from the Governor.
The governor of the state of California has authority to issue pardons to anyone he/she chooses. A pardon from the governor will eliminate all penalties to do with the relevant conviction. It results in total and permanent relief and is the "ultimate" way to "clear your record."
Typically, you have to wait 10 years after release from custody (including probation/parole, not just incarceration time) before you can even apply for a pardon.
But if you get a certificate of rehabilitation (discussed above), then you can sometimes apply in only 7 years.
If you are found factually innocent, then you may be able to apply for a governor's pardon immediately, as well as have the criminal record sealed and destroyed.
WHY CHOOSE RECORD EXPUNGEMENT ATTORNEY?
Given the large number of law firms operating in Los Angeles, many of which will handle expungement cases among others, why you may ask should you opt for Record Expungement Attorney?
The first answer is that we specialize in expungements, record sealing, and other similar practice areas. It is not an add-on with us: it is our passion, our focus, the center of our legal training and experience.
But beyond expertise, we also offer you integrity, dedication to the best interests of each and every client, and a sterling reputation in local L.A. communities that we've forged over the course of many years of service.
We take care to uphold full confidentiality and to show our clients all due respect, with the highest standards of professionalism always being our guide.
We are not a "law mill." We take the time to examine your situation in detail and do the legal research necessary to ensure the best and most efficient strategy is followed in your case. In short, we give you personal attention and a customized service.
But in the end, we realize that "the proof is in the pudding." Record Expungement Attorney has a long and strong track record of success at getting records expunged and in gaining approval for other petitions submitted by our clients to the courts.
We know how to build you a strong case as to why your record should be expunged, sealed, or cleared in some other way. We understand which evidences to use in a persuasive argument before the judge at your hearing, no less than we know how to correctly compete and submit all the required forms and other paperwork.
And our team of attorneys' experience not only leads us to a high success rate and client satisfaction rate, but it also means we can get the job done faster and in more "streamlined" fashion than what is typical among our competition.
CONTACT US TODAY FOR IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE!
Record expungement, arrest record clearing, certificates of rehabilitation, early termination of probation, obtaining a Governor's pardon, and several other means of clearing up a past criminal record exist for California residents.
But the legal requirements for obtaining these benefits are not all that simple and straightforward. Only a well-seasoned lawyer with extensive experienced in these particular practice areas can confidently, successfully, and efficiently navigate these processes from beginning to end.
At Record Expungement Attorney, we stand ready to help you overcome a past police record of any kind that may be hindering your current lifestyle and future plans. We have helped numerous others in Los Angeles and beyond - and we can do the same for you!
Contact us today by calling 424-835-9505, and we will give you a free consultation and a quick commencement to your case. Or, you can meet us in person at our office location at 111 West Ocean Blvd. 4th Floor Long Beach, California, 90802.