Criminal conviction records can negatively impact an individual’s reputation and professional life long after the individual’s debt to the society has been paid. The availability of technology and background checks have made it easier than ever to access an individual’s complete history and any type of legal record can raise issues for everything related to trying to rent an apartment, buying a car, getting a low-interest loan, and most importantly obtaining gainful employment. However, California has one of the most gracious expungement programs that strive to provide a second chance to individuals who have been rehabilitated from their past convictions. An expungement is a powerful tool that has the ability to open doors for many opportunities. Once your record has been successfully expunged, your no contest or guilty plea is withdrawn and the case is dismissed. As a result, you can honestly answer “no” when asked if you’ve ever been convicted.
Let’s look at the types of record expungements available in California.
EXPUNGEMENT OF DUI
DUI convictions can be expunged in California. A DUI case affects both your criminal record and driving record and is usually separate from the civil or administrative case. Expungement doesn’t apply to your driving record and it won’t affect a license suspension or revocation or other matters under the Department of Motor Vehicles. A seasoned Record Expungement Attorney who has a deeper understanding of DUI cases can help you expunge your DUI record as well as your driving record.
WHO QUALIFIES TO HAVE THEIR DUI CONVICTION EXPUNGED?
Anyone convicted of either California misdemeanor or felony DUI can access expungement as long as:
- The individual successfully completed their probationary term for the offense, and
- He or she did not serve time in state prison or served time in a state prison but would have served it in county jail after "realignment" under Proposition 47 was implemented
Most of DUI convictions in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Valley Area will meet these requirements.
HOW DOES A CALIFORNIA DUI EXPUNGEMENT WORK?
After completing probation for a DUI, the person may petition the court to expunge the conviction record. The petition will be reviewed by a judge, who will then determine whether or not the petitioner qualifies for an expungement. If the petition is granted, the individual withdraws his/her no contest or guilty plea and re-enters a “not-guilty” plea. Also, if the petitioner was found was found guilty after a bench trial or jury trial, the judge will set aside the verdict, after which the case is dismissed.
WILL EXPUNGEMENT HELP ONE GET BACK THEIR DRIVER’S LICENSE?
A California Penal Code 1203.4 expungement of a DUI conviction won’t be able to overturn the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. However, in most cases, probation takes more time than the period of mandatory driver’s suspension for Driving Under Influence. For instance, an individual may have his/her license suspended for six months and be given a three to five years’ probation. In cases where the license has been revoked, expungement will still not reinstate lost driving rights.
HOW WILL A SUBSEQUENT DUI AFFECT AN EXPUNGED DUI CONVICTION?
In California, DUI is considered a “priorable” offense. This implies that each conviction accumulated within a ten-year window attracts increased penalties. Whether expunged or not, a drunk or drugged conviction is still priorable.
EARLY TERMINATION OF PROBATION AND DUI EXPUNGEMENT
Individuals whose probations are terminated are also eligible for expungement. It doesn’t matter whether probation was terminated early by the court or the probation period ends. Typically, misdemeanor probation for a drunk or drugged driving conviction lasts three to five years and that of a felony probation can be equally long. But it can be terminated early, for example, after 18 months.
To obtain an early termination of your DUI probation, you must file a petition with the court, which has the discretion to grant your prayer if:
- You (defendant) has successfully completed the terms of probation and
- In your case, there are circumstances that justify early termination of probation, such as the need to travel for work or visit sick family members, advance at work, or secure gainful employment.
In reality, many judges are usually hesitant to grant early termination of probation in DUI cases because they want to see the defendant bound by the probation term that require the person not to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in his/her system. So, in most cases, before a DUI conviction can be expunged and dismissed, the judge may require the defendant to serve his probation to completion.
Felony expungement involves clearing felony charges from an individual’s criminal record. It allows an individual to legally state even under oath that the felony never took place. In other words, felony expungement makes it look as if the person was never charged with the crime.
REQUIREMENTS FOR FELONY EXPUNGEMENTS
Felony expungement usually requires:
- All fines and incarceration sentences must be successfully fulfilled
- Filing a petition. Felony expungement is not an automatic process and that’s why you must submit a written request to a judge who will then conduct a hearing to determine if you qualify or not
- You must have successfully completed your probation without any violations or incidents
- A waiting period that usually lasts anywhere from 5-10 years after completion of sentence
WHICH FELONIES MAY NOT BE EXPUNGED?
In general, the more serious the felony charges, the less chance they can be expunged. If you served a state prison sentence and were found guilty of murder, kidnapping, or any sex crime against a child, your felony conviction cannot be expunged.
In addition, some felonies may have legal consequences even if they have been successfully expunged. In California, defendants who have been charged with three felonies will face a life sentence as provided under the “Three Strikes” law. This means that an expunged felony will still count towards the three strikes. Although the prior felony conviction will not show up on your record, it may be cited if future felonies are committed. Also, felony expungement may be reversed if the offense is repeated.
REDUCING A FELONY TO A MISDEMEANOR
It’s possible for some defendants convicted of California felonies to have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors, especially if the crimes are non-violent. As a result, it is able to get rid of the stigma associated with being a convicted felon in society. Expunging misdemeanor convictions is much easier than felony convictions. Under California Penal Code 17(b),felony reductions to misdemeanors are available to individuals who:
- are sentenced to and complete felony probation for the crime, and
- are convicted of “wobbler” offenses as felonies.
Wobblers are crimes that can be charged and punished either as misdemeanors or felonies. Examples of California wobblers include burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, spousal battery, sexual battery, and fraud. “Straight” felonies can only be prosecuted as felonies and are not eligible for reduction to a misdemeanor. A felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor either at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, when the defendant is being sentenced or after one has been released and has completed the felony probation.
It’s worth noting that a misdemeanor reduction will not relieve you of all penalties and disabilities of conviction in the same way as expungement. And while it’s possible to expunge a felony without reducing it to a misdemeanor, it’s way much better to have an expunged misdemeanor than it to have an expunged felony. This is because it helps restore some benefits and rights- such as right to possess firearms- that can be denied even to felons with expunged convictions. Felony expungement law can be quite complex and with a lot of paperwork that must be filed with the court in a timely manner. As such, you need to work with a seasoned attorney who only focuses on expungement cases in California and can handle every detail of the case on your behalf.
Misdemeanor expungement involves sealing or setting aside a misdemeanor conviction from an individual’s criminal record. A successful expungement typically depends on the severity of the case. In California, a misdemeanor is a less serious offense that’s punishable by a sentence of up to 364 days in county jail and a monetary fine of $1,000 or more.
COMMON MISDEMEANORS THAT CAN BE EXPUNGED
Some of the most commonly expunged misdemeanors in California include;
- Simple theft crimes
- Elder abuse
- DUI and Traffic misdemeanors
- Disturbing the peace
- Resisting arrest
- Brandishing a weapon
California law allows for the expungement of most misdemeanors, except for crime that are committed against a minor, such as several counts of statutory rape under California PC 261.5.
REQUIREMENTS FOR MISDEMEANOR EXPUNGEMENT
A petition for misdemeanor expungement must be filed with the proper court before one can be eligible. Just because you were convicted of a misdemeanor doesn’t mean that your petition will automatically be granted. California misdemeanor expungement should be specifically requested. To qualify, the petitioner must:
- Fulfill a waiting period which is usually 1-3 years after paying fines or release from jail
- Serve or fulfill the specific terms of the original sentence
- Successfully complete probation without any violations or incidents
- Have no pending proceedings
WHAT A MISDEMEANOR EXPUNGEMENT CANNOT DO
While a misdemeanor expungement can help one seal or clear their criminal record, there are also some limitations to it. California misdemeanors will not
- Keep people from learning about a past conviction
- Restore gun usage, ownership or possession privileges
- Protect you from immigration consequences
- Restore your ability to hold a public office or get a professional license if you’ve been convicted of a crime that makes you ineligible to
- Excuse an individual from sentences that obligate them to register as a sex offender
Just like with felony convictions, some misdemeanor crimes are classified as “priorable.” This means that while an expunged misdemeanor conviction will be dismissed and set aside, it can still be used to increase the severity of the penalties for future related crimes. Also, even after expungement, you’ll still be required to disclose the conviction when applying for a state license, contracting with the California Lottery Commission, or running for public office.
Infractions are viewed as less serious convictions than misdemeanor and felony convictions. However, they will still show up on a background check and can also have adverse impacts on your ability to obtain gainful employment or safe housing. Many people often assume that infractions are automatically erased from an individual’s record after some time or in some cases will not be visible. None of these is true. A little trespassing charge lurking in your past can get in the way of a big payday. With the job and housing markets that exist today being more competitive than they ever were, the criminal infraction may adversely impact your marketability. The truth is, most potential employers and landlords conduct background checks frequently and they’re definitely going to see that infraction if you’ve not taken any legal action to get it cleared.
Some of the most common pesky infraction charges that can mess up your record include fraud, petty theft, marijuana possession, trespassing, failure to appear in court, or illegal purchase of alcohol. And while infractions are in most cases not serious, they can be humiliating and can carry a social stigma that will even affect your family. With all that’s at stake, why have them sit there? A successful infraction expungement allows you to truthfully tell your employer or any other interested parties that you have never been convicted of a crime before. Requirements for eligibility are similar to those that apply in misdemeanor expungements.
On average, infraction expungement in California takes anywhere between 6 -12 weeks (on the lower side). As such, the sooner you get started on your case, the sooner you’ll be able to put the past behind you.
CALIFORNIA ARREST RECORD SEALING
If you were arrested but never convicted of the crime, you’re not spared from discriminations that come with criminal background checks. The arrest will show on your permanent criminal record for the remainder of your life, and all interested parties, including potential employers, apartment owners, and banks can see it after a background check. Yes, a false arrest can hold you back in life. Fortunately, under California Penal Code 851.87,individuals who were arrested but never convicted can have their arrest records sealed as a matter of right. You’re eligible to have your arrest record sealed if:
- no criminal charge was filed
- charges were filed against you, but later dismissed
- the conviction was overturned on appeal and charges cannot be filed again
- you were acquitted in a jury trial
- you completed a presentencing or pretrial diversion program that resulted in the dismissal of the charges
However, an arrest record cannot be sealed as a matter of right if the arrest was for a crime for which the statute of limitations, the petitioner’s record shows a pattern of child abuse, elder abuse, or domestic violence, he or she interfered with the efforts to prosecute the arrest, or there’s a possibility for the person to be charged.
You can also seal your juvenile criminal record if you’re now an adult and the juvenile court’s jurisdiction was terminated at least 5 years ago, there’s no pending civil lawsuit associated with the juvenile case, and you haven’t been convicted of any crimes of moral turpitude as an adult.
CONTACTING A RECORD EXPUNGEMENT ATTORNEY NEAR ME
No two cases are exactly the same and for this reason, it’s critical that you hire an attorney that has a comprehensive understanding of California expungement laws and only focuses on this area. At Record Expungement Attorney, we have a uniquely tailored approach that makes it possible for us to come up with the most persuasive arguments possible, giving us the best chance to achieve a successful outcome. We take pride in providing top notch customer service throughout Los Angeles, Valley Area, and Long Beach. From the day you hire us to the day your case is resolved, you can rest assured that we’ll be there for you every step of the way. We handle every detail of your expungement on your behalf. The sooner you get started on your expungement case, the sooner you can put the past behind you and embrace the future. Contact us any time 24/7/365 at 424-835-9505 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We look forward to helping you in every possible way we can.