Everyone makes mistakes, yes, but some can haunt you even decades after the event and continue to harm your ability to live a normal life. Actually, a criminal record on your name is a never-ending black mark. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, no matter how petty, finding a job can be hard because few employers will forgive a criminal past. It just doesn’t matter how hard your work, what dreams you have, or how much you’ve changed, all that can be seen is that one mistake in your past; you have a criminal record. Getting a professional license, being approved for a loan or a chance to enroll at the institution of your dreams can all prove to be futile. Fortunately, California has one of the most gracious expungement programs in the country, and it’s the state’s law principle to provide a second chance to individuals who have made mistakes in the past.
But that does not imply that any and all criminal records will be erased, the process is simple, or you’ll be in the exact same position as you were before. While the benefits of expungement are vast, including the career and reputational benefits you’ll experience, it’s paramount to go into the process with the right knowledge and resources to get the job done.
WHAT CALIFORNIA EXPUNGEMENT DOES
- After an expungement, your no contest or guilty plea is withdrawn
- The court dismisses your case and your record will show it as dismissed
- The expungement will be sent to the Department of Justice
- You can answer “No” if an employer asks if you’ve ever been convicted
- An expungement can help you with housing and loan applications
- It restores your eligibility for a student loan
- Prevents the criminal record from being used to impeach your credibility in certain court proceedings
- Keeps the record of your conviction out of the public record
- Can help with some job licenses and certificates
- Helps on close a chapter of their past and move on without shame or fear
ELIGIBILITY FOR AN EXPUNGEMENT
You may be eligible for an expungement if you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony crime and you:
- Did not serve a state prison sentence
- Have obeyed all rules, orders, regulations, as well as directives of the court and jail
- Have completed probation or parole
- Have fulfilled all the terms of your sentencing, including paying off victim restitution and all fines
- Have not committed any crime or are not currently facing new criminal charges or serving another sentence for a different criminal offense
You may be able to expunge a conviction from your record if you were sentenced to imprisonment in a county jail and as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. However, if your probation was dismissed by the court before the probationary period needed, you may still be eligible for expungement. On the other hand, you’re not eligible for an expungement if you served a state prison sentence and were found guilty of either:
- Murder- PC 187
- Lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under PC 288,
- Oral copulation with a minor under PC 288 (c),
- Forcible sexual penetration with a minor under 14 years of age- Penal Code 289 (j),
- Sodomy with a minor- PC 286(c),
- Child pornography- PC 311
- Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 16 years old committed by an individual over 21 years old – PC 261.5 (d),
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child – PC 288.5
- Any special misdemeanors or infractions under Vehicle Code section 42001, and
- Failure to pull over and submit to inspection for an unsafe condition endangering human life and property under VC 42002.1.
EXPUNGEMENT CAN BE A MULTI-STEP PROCESS
Petitioning for expungement is not simply a matter of filing forms and depending on the type of conviction; there are many steps to it that can be quite complicated. Misdemeanor crimes may be easier to expunge in California, but if you were convicted for a felony, the first step to the process is having the court reduce your felony to a misdemeanor. Once that has been granted, then you can petition to have the misdemeanor expunged. Prior to having the misdemeanor expunged you must also finish and fulfill all the requirements of your probation. This may also call for additional steps, especially if there’s any unresolved issue with your probation.
EXPUNGEMENT IS NOT ALWAYS THE SAME AS CRIMINAL RECORD CLEARING
A successful expungement allows the courts to change your public record to show a not guilty finding for the offense that you were convicted for. However, if your records had been maintained by private companies that do so for the purposes of background checks, the changes made to your record may not necessarily reflect and as such, it can still be possible for employers and other background investigators to be furnished with information of your now expunged conviction. However, services are available and if your record has been expunged, you can take action to also clear these third-party criminal records.
THE BIGGEST DRAWBACKS OF CALIFORNIA EXPUNGEMENTS
Let’s look at some of the frequently asked questions to address this:
WILL AN EXPUNGEMENT KEEP PEOPLE FROM LEARNING ABOUT A PAST CONVICTION?
A post-conviction relief under California Penal Code 1203.4 does not automatically erase an individual’s criminal record. Instead, it updates the record of conviction to show that:
- the case has been dismissed
- probation is terminated
- your guilty plea or no contest has been withdrawn and replaced with a not guilty plea or your guilty verdict after a jury trial has been set aside
Even after an expungement, if someone does a background check on you, they may still be able to see that you’re an ex-convict, which is a major limitation of expungements for many defendants. However, that person will also be in a position to see that your conviction was successfully expunged. Also, there are convictions that leave one ineligible to hold various public and elected offices. An expungement will not restore your ability to hold the offices in question if you’ve been convicted of one of the crimes.
ARE YOU OBLIGATED TO PROVIDE INFORMATION CONCERNING AN EXPUNGED CONVICTION TO STATE LICENSING BOARDS?
Even if your conviction has been expunged under PC 1203.4, you must disclose the record if you’re asked whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime in an application for contracting with the state lottery or for a state license for public office. Some state licensing agencies do not recognize an expungement and will not approve your application. This is most common with licensing agencies for educators and medical professionals, but the decision can vary widely depending on the agency in question. For this reason, it’s vital to directly contact the licensing agency in order to determine whether or not they ask for information regarding expunged convictions.
However, even with this serious drawback of criminal expungements, it’s still likely that an expungement will help if you plan on applying for a professional license. This is owing to the fact that licensing boards may be less likely to use an dismissed conviction against you.
The federal government does not have to honor an expungement granted in California. If you’re applying for a federal government job, you may be obligated to disclose the details of the expunged crime. Even with an expungement to your name, you may be rendered ineligible for a job opportunity that requires security clearance, whether you are seeking employment from a private contractor with the federal government or are looking to be directly employed by the federal government.
WILL AN EXPUNGED CONVICTION BE USED TO ENHANCE YOUR SENTENCE FOR A SUBSEQUENT CONVICTION?
Some criminal convictions in California are known to be ‘priorable’ and this means that if you receive another conviction in the future, the court can (and in some cases, must) impose harsher sentences because of the prior record. Repeat offenders have fewer chances for a probation or diversion program and prior felonies are regarded as strikes pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law. While these types of felonies can be eligible for expungement, they are still open to be used as a prior “strike.” The prosecutor will look at your past records to determine the charges to file and the court will use that to determine the sentence. As such, one major drawback of expungement is that they do not prevent a conviction from being used to enhance your sentence for a subsequent conviction.
A good example is drunk driving (DUI). A conviction for a first-time DUI is ‘priorable’ for the next then (10) years. If an individual suffers another DUI conviction before the ten-year period is over, the new conviction will be treated as a second-time DUI. The punishment imposed will be more severe even if the first conviction was expunged under Penal Code 1230.4.
CAN YOU REGAIN YOUR RIGHT TO OWN A FIREARM WITH AN EXPUNGED CONVICTION?
Under California Penal Code 29800, it is illegal to use, possess, or own a firearm after a felony conviction, and certain misdemeanor convictions. If you lost your right to own, possess, or use a firearm following a conviction, an expungement under PC 1203.4 does not get rid of the prohibition. However, you’ll have the option of seeking a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon or wait until the restriction period has expired, if applicable.
DOES AN EXPUNGEMENT RELIEVE YOU FROM THE DUTY TO REGISTER AS A SEX OFFENDER?
If you were convicted of a sex crime and now have the duty to register as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290, an expungement will not relieve you from the duty. This is another major drawback of expungement for defendants who face this burdensome requirement. However, you can still get a relief from the sex offender registration obligation by filing a petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, which is filed with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and issued by the courts. If granted, the certificate of rehabilitation automatically becomes California Governor’s Pardon. This certificate may relieve some convicts from the duty of registering as a sex offender.
WILL CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE 1203.4 EXPUNGEMENT PROTECT YOU FROM IMMIGRATION CONSEQUENCES?
If you’re not a citizen of the United States, simply having your criminal records expunged will not protect you from facing the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction, in this case, inadmissibility or deportation. This is owing to the fact that immigration courts only admit post-conviction relief if the underlying conviction was lawfully invalid.
However, the expungement application process can sometimes help with the immigration consequences of certain convictions. For instance, if the defendant manages to have his or her felony reduced to a misdemeanor as part of the expungement process, the conviction ceases to be for an inadmissible crime and may no longer hinder them from obtaining a green card or any other immigration benefits. Since immigration issues are handled by the federal government and tend to be extremely complex when mixed with California criminal and expungement law, it’s best to discuss your situation with an experienced record expungement attorney who understands both legal areas.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will still view a sealed or expunged record as a criminal conviction unless expungement or a Governor’s Pardon was granted on the grounds of factual innocence. There are different steps considered when reviewing the character and fitness of an immigrant from permanent residency to citizenship, USCIS runs a background check to see if the person petitioning has ever been convicted of a crime. Even if the immigrant was convicted, successfully made compensation, and had the court record expunged as part of a plea agreement, that initial conviction will still show up on the immigrant’s record and he or she may be involved in deportation proceedings. Working with an experienced record expungement attorney is vital since you’ll be able to understand all the immigration consequences and how to avoid them.
HELP IMPROVE YOUR ELIGIBILITY
If convicted for a felony crime such as felony DUI, you’ll be required to first petition to have the felony conviction be reduced to a misdemeanor. The same basic steps and requirements of petitioning for expungement apply. If you’re arrested for or charged with a new crime while your expungement is being processed, the situation will definitely give the court a reason to deny the expungement. While having a pending traffic infraction will not hinder your eligibility in having your criminal conviction expunged or will not affect the outcome of your petition, it's still important that you avoid engaging in any traffic or criminal activity just to make sure that your expungement request is granted.
Expungement is a very effective tool that helps former convicts to be relieved of the stigma associated with a criminal conviction and get a fresh start on personal and professional levels. Only individuals who satisfy all of their court obligations can be granted expungement. If you are seeking to have your criminal conviction expunged in California, make it a point to avoid any criminal charges at the time you apply for an expungement.
CONTACT RECORD EXPUNGEMENT ATTORNEY FOR ASSISTANCE
California criminal record services can be quite daunting without the assistance of an attorney. It can take several months to complete the process, depending on the circumstances of your case. At Record Expungement Attorney, we’re a client-centered professional expungement law firm experienced in such matters and not a mass-market expungement mill. A botched expungement wastes your money, time, and could even damage the rest of your life. So, if you’re serious about setting aside the mistakes of your past, invest in the best and we believe that’s us!
Our attorneys are ready and willing to work hard to improve your future. We’ll evaluate your case to determine your eligibility for moving past a criminal record. And even if you’re not, we may offer other legal remedies. When we accept your expungement case, we’ll handle every aspect of it from the start to the last court proceedings, and you can trust us to put your mind at ease. Our number one concern is winning your expungement and having successfully served dozens of clients in Los Angeles, Valley Area, and Long Beach, you can rest assured that we’ll not let you down. We do everything possible to speed the process but we never cut corners. We do it once and do it right. Contact us any time 24/7/365 at 424-835-9505 for a free consultation.