A blemish on your criminal record can haunt for a long time to come. It could affect your ability to pursue higher education or make use of job opportunities. You may not be able to run for office or even obtain certain professional licenses. This is where an expungement comes in. If you have been convicted or certain crimes in California, the law does afford you a second chance. You can have this mark on your criminal history removed or expunged or erased. While this may sound too good to be true, it can actually be done and our experienced Orange County expungement lawyers can help you accomplish that.
Who is Eligible for an Expungement?
You can get your criminal records expunged in California under Penal Code 1203.4 PC if you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense and you successfully completed probation. You must not currently be charged with a criminal offense, be on probation for a criminal offense or be serving a sentence for an offense. If you got sent to California state prison, you don’t qualify for expungement. What does it mean to have successfully completed probation? You must have completed all the terms of your probation including paying all fines, restitution, finishing community service counseling programs, etc. You should have attended all required court appearances and must not have committed any new crimes while still on probation.
What an Expungement Can and Can’t Do
An expungement will result in a new entry in the court record showing that your case has been dismissed. It will allow you to answer on many (but not all) job applications that you have not been convicted. If you are applying for a government job or a job that requires a government-issued license, certificate, permit or job that requires security clearance, the conviction will be discovered. In such cases, you may have to disclose the initial conviction as well as the expungement. An expungement can also help you prevent the use of the conviction to impeach you if you testify as a witness unless you are being tried for a subsequent offense. If the conviction was for a felony, expungement is a first step in getting a pardon.
Here are a few things an expungement cannot do for you. It will not:
- Remove the conviction from your rap sheet. Criminal history records will show your conviction and then the dismissal or expungement.
- Reinstate the right to possess firearms if it was taken away. You may be able to get it reinstated if your charge was reduced to a misdemeanor or if you were not convicted of a violent crime.
- Remove the requirement to register as a sex offender. If the expungement is in fact granted, registrants must complete and file paperwork requesting a Certificate of Rehabilitation, when you are eligible to do so.
- Allow you to omit the conviction from applications for government-issued licenses.
- Seal or remove the court case file from public inspection. In this age of the Internet where everything is available online, if someone wants to find your record and knows where to look, they will likely be able to find the court case file.
- Prevent the conviction from being used as prior or a strike under California’s Three Strikes law.
- Prevent the conviction from being considered and used to revoke government licenses and permits. These could include real estate licenses, teaching credentials, bus driver licenses, security guard certificates, etc.
- Prevent ICE from using the conviction for deportation purposes.
In addition, there are also certain criminal offenses in California that cannot be expunged. These primarily include sex offenses committed against children such as sodomy with a child, lewd acts with a child, oral copulation with a child and sexual intercourse with persons younger than 16, if you were 21 or older at the time of the offense.
For many people, the benefits of an expungement far outweigh these limitations. Under the California Labor Code, employers cannot ask about arrests that did not end in conviction, convictions that have been judicially dismissed or about any diversion or similar programs. If the employer is aware of such arrests and programs, they are prohibited from using this information to make hiring, promotion, firing or layoff decisions. Once a conviction is expunged, it becomes an arrest that did not end in conviction. Remember that background checks typically go back 10 years and employers can see you had a conviction dismissed.
Sealing Records Versus Expungement
Sealing and destroying arrest records is a completely different process from expunging criminal records. You may be able to have your records sealed if you were arrested, but if the prosecutor never filed criminal charges. You could also have your records sealed if your case was dismissed in court or if you were acquitted by a jury after a jury trial. This basically allows you to tell future employers that you have been arrested on suspicion of a crime, but that the charges never materialized or that you were never really convicted of the crime.
Juvenile records may also be sealed in California. You may be eligible if you are currently an adult who has not been convicted of any crimes of moral turpitude (a crime involving dishonesty or immoral behavior). In order to seal your juvenile court records, you must not have any pending civil litigation based on the juvenile incident. Once a motion to seal and destroy your records is granted by a judge, the arrest record is ordered sealed for three years and destroyed after that time.
Affordable, Professional Assistance Expunging Your Record
If you would like your conviction expunged from your record or would like to find out if you are eligible to have your conviction expunged, fill out our contact form or call us at (888) 250-2867. The professional evaluation is free.