Expungement is the process whereby the criminal court dismisses your criminal records. In California, expungement is outlined under California PC 1203.4. The legal process frees you from the potential consequences of a criminal conviction. These negative outcomes of a criminal conviction include challenges when seeking a new job or house or challenges when obtaining a student loan. The expungement process might be challenging, especially when you decide to handle the case independently. You need to seek legal help from an aggressive criminal defense attorney. 

Our attorneys at Foos Gavin Law Firm are ready to help you start a fresh life by expunging your criminal records. We start by investigating and helping you know whether you are eligible for the expungement process. Next, we help you learn the benefits of the legal process and its limitations. If you seek to expunge your criminal records in Los Angeles, do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced attorneys.

Understanding Criminal Records and Expungement

In California, a criminal record includes a history of unlawful activities for which you face conviction. The information therein includes:

  • Your full name.
  • Your ethnicity, race, and date of birth.
  • Your arrest history.
  • Your fingerprints.
  • Any convictions.
  • Any outstanding warrants.
  • Your photographs.
  • Any former or current indictments.

The court creates the criminal record from when the law enforcement officer arrests you. The criminal record is available for the general public to view. When you seek to apply for a job, the employer might check your criminal record before they employ you. The criminal record can remain in your criminal history unless you delete it.

Alternatively, expungement is a legal court order to dismiss the conviction. But the court can only dismiss the conviction after you serve the court-ordered sentence. The expungement deletes the criminal record from the public records. Expungement is outlined under California PC 1203.4, so you can request the expungement provided you have completed your probation. Speak with your attorney to help you learn more about the expungement process and whether you are eligible.

Who is Eligible for Expungement in California?

You may qualify for expungement whether you face a felony or misdemeanor charge, as per California PC 1203.4. However, it would be best if you met the following conditions for the court to consider you eligible for the expungement.

  • You fulfilled all the probation requirements during your sentence, or the court issued you an early termination.
  • You never served state imprisonment for the crime you seek to delete
  • How do you complete your probation? You might wonder how one completes their probation term successfully. The law in California considers you to have completed your probation term when you meet the following requirements:
    • You adhered to all conditions and terms of probation, including restitution, public service, mandatory service, and financial sanctions.
    • During your probation time, you never committed a new crime.
    • You showed up in court for all compulsory court dates.

Remember, if the court convicted you of a felony charge or served your sentence in state prison, you could still be eligible for the expungement. Also, the law may allow you to obtain the expungement even if you violated the terms and conditions of your probation. Your lawyer may request the criminal court to hold a special hearing. During the court hearing, the attorney may present enough evidence to help challenge the judge that you are eligible for the expungement. The statute gives the judges authority to decide whether to deny or grant the expungement.

According to PC 1203.4, the statute gives the criminal court judge the power to determine whether to expunge your criminal records or not. To make the determination, the court considers several factors. The factors include:

  • How do you accomplish the conditions and terms of your probation?
  • The nature of the alleged crime.

Also, the court allows your criminal defense lawyer to present evidence that might support your eligibility for the expungement. For instance, your lawyer may bring evidence showing you are shortlisted for a particular job. Again, you may provide evidence to show you are seeking a job to support your family. You do not qualify for an expungement if:

  • You are serving a probation term after a criminal conviction.
  • You are serving a sentence because of a criminal conviction.
  • You commit sodomy with a child.
  • You commit statutory rape.
  • You commit lascivious behavior with a child.

Why Do You Need to Obtain Expungement Under California PC 1203.4?

An expungement relieves a person from many of the consequences that may come with a criminal conviction. Nowadays, the law in California prohibits employees from asking a person about their criminal records when the person has already expunged their criminal records. Speak with your criminal defense attorney to help you learn more about the expungement process and the benefits associated with it.

The Expungement Process

You qualify for the expungement petition if you have stayed for over 24 months after completing your sentence. According to PC 1203.4, expungement should be appealed to the criminal court. The law allows you to apply for expungement in any of the following ways:

  • Your probation expert
  • In-person
  • Through your criminal defense lawyer

After appealing to the court. The criminal court will:

  • Allow you to remove your guilty plea to a not guilty verdict
  • Keep away from the guilty plea if the court sentences you after agreeing to the not guilty verdict

After doing so, the criminal court will discharge the accusations set against you. The court will free you from the penalties and the disabilities arising from the alleged crime. Before the court grants you the expungement, it must follow certain procedures. Ensure you work with a well-experienced attorney in expungement. The court will require your attorney to follow the following:

  • Examine and investigate your case to determine whether you are eligible for the expungement
  • Conduct lawful investigations into current and relevant statutes on expungement
  • File the relevant documents within the required time limit and serve the prosecuting lawyer under PC 1203.4. The attorney will also file a petition to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor charge
  • Appear for the expungement proceedings as ordered by the court and obtain a copy signed by the criminal court judge showing the court has expunged your criminal records

Ensure you file all the paperwork on time. You must give the prosecution team at least two weeks' notice before the court conducts a hearing. Once you do so, the prosecution team will have enough time to investigate your case and oppose it when possible. Depending on the court, the process may take up to four months. The length of the case may vary based on several factors, like:

  • The nature of the case
  • The time when you filed the case
  • Whether the DA rejects your case

Once the court agrees to let you enter the expungement, the criminal court judge signs a court order which changes your bargain to a not guilty verdict before you dismiss the case. Then the judges issue you with a copy of the order. Also, the court orders all government agencies to update the criminal record and show the expungement. Alternatively, when the criminal court denies you the petition for expungement, your lawyer may seek to know why the court denied you the petition. The law allows you to refile the petition and include more evidence where necessary.

If you are serving a probation term, you might return to the court and request the criminal court judge to end your probation. It is recommended that you wait until you have served half the probation term before asking the court to relieve you from the probation. Once the court terminates the probation, you can file a petition to expunge the records and speak with your criminal defense attorney to help determine whether it is wise to terminate the probation and apply for expungement. 

What are the Merits of Expungement?

When you face a criminal conviction, you lose certain benefits and privileges. However, when you delete a criminal record, you may have the opportunity to enjoy numerous benefits. Below are several benefits associated with the expungement of your criminal records.

Obtain a state license: if you seek to obtain a professional license in California while you have a prior conviction, expungement will be an added advantage. But, you must reveal the conviction once asked as you apply for the licenses.

Credibility as a court witness: if you seek to act as a criminal court witness, the other party has no authority to question the expunged criminal records.

Avoid employer discrimination: many employers conduct a background check before they hire an employee. Remember, a background check reveals your prior convictions, probation status, and arrest records. According to the law, an employer has no right to consider your expungement when deciding to hire you.

Avoid immigration consequences: the expungement process can help you avoid various immigration consequences like deportation and naturalization. But the process will not attract any immigration benefits.

The court will restore your right to a jury: after you expunge your criminal record. You will also have your right to a jury restored after malpractice while in a public office. If you are a student, you will become eligible to access housing and student loans.

What Are the Limitations of Expungement in California?

Apart from the numerous benefits that come with expunging your criminal records, the expungement has certain limitations, as discussed below:

  • Expungement will not delete your past conviction since it will reverse your records and show the court has stopped your probation, the criminal court has dismissed your case, and the court has removed the guilty plea.
  • The expungement will not prevent the criminal conviction from being considered prior. When you commit a new offense, the court can consider your prior conviction to determine your sentence.
  • The expungement cannot excuse you from revealing your past convictions when making an application for a professional license or a public office.
  • An expungement will not prevent you from suffering the consequences of an immigration conviction. Also, the expungement will not end your duty to register as a sex offender when convicted of a sex crime.
  • Expungement does not reinstall your rights to own a firearm after you commit a felony or misdemeanor offense under CP 29800. You cannot become an enforcement officer if you face a felony that has not been reduced to a misdemeanor.

Expunging Drug and Felony Charges in California

In California, the law allows you to erase a drug or felony charge after complying with the probation terms and avoiding sentences in the state prisons. Completion of your probation successfully is the key to expungement. Remember, the judge can still expunge your criminal record even after violating the conditions of your probation. The court will, however, consider how you violated the conditions of your probation before they can delete the criminal records. If the prosecutor had filed your case as a felony charge, the court could first reduce the charge to a misdemeanor before they could delete the criminal records.

Alternatively, if the court charges you with drug possession, or if the court refers you to a drug diversion program like DEJ, and you fulfill the conditions, the court can expunge your criminal record. But when you violate the terms and conditions but fail to fulfill the court may not expunge the records. Note that if you face charges for possession of marijuana with usable amounts, you are not required to obtain expungement since the court automatically erases the criminal records after 24 months.

The Cost of Expungement in California

When you seek to expunge your criminal records in California, the criminal court will ask for a fee. Remember, the fee for expungement will vary based on the county where you reside. But the expungement cost for misdemeanor charges is much less than the expungement cost for a felony charge. Before you can delete the records, ensure you consult with your attorney or local courthouse to help you find out the required fee.

Note that your lawyer will also require a fee to provide legal help. In many cases, you might find it difficult to erase a criminal record when you decide to do so on your own. So, you will keep facing the challenges associated with criminal records, including the challenges of seeking a new job. When you hire an attorney, you increase your chances of expunging your criminal records. Doing so means you will have options for accessing student loans, and better jobs, among other opportunities. Once you plan an initial appointment with your lawyer, they will let you know the exact fee required to expunge a criminal record.

Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardons

The criminal court issues the certificate of rehabilitation to show you have completed the necessary rehabilitation programs after your conviction. Also, the governor requires a certificate of rehabilitation to issue a full pardon. The criminal court issues a copy of your rehabilitation certificate to the governor after generating it for you. The governor's pardon restores your constitutional rights, including the right to own or possess a firearm. To obtain the certificate of rehabilitation, you must meet the following requirements: Face conviction for a felony or misdemeanor charge of sex crimes dismissed according to the PC 1203.4, provided you have never faced any conviction after jail not serving a current probation term.

Governor's Pardon

When you have been convicted previously, a governor's pardon restores your rights, including the ability to obtain a state license that would not be available to you. You will be issued a pardon after you have fully served your jail term and have now changed and lived an adjusted life. The pardon does not seal your criminal records. The pardon restores your right to possess a firearm only if your crime did not involve using a dangerous weapon.

How Do You Qualify for a Governor's Pardon?

Pardon is used to forgive you after you have moved on from your criminal past and are fully rehabilitated. Before applying, you want to have served your sentence fully. After the sentence, you want to provide evidence that you have led a clean and law-abiding life for years.

In California, you may apply for a governor's pardon when you face a conviction for a felony or misdemeanor sex offense listed under PC 290. You have to note that you want to have criminal records according to PC 1203.4.

The reason for seeking the governor's pardon is to restore your rights after you faced a felony conviction. According to California laws, people facing convictions for less severe crimes receive the governor's pardon. Even if you committed a severe crime, the governor might grant you a pardon if you present the required documents. Therefore, immediately after you receive your rehabilitation certificate from the court, you may start an application for a governor's pardon.

Advantages of the Governor's Pardon

Before you apply for the pardon, you want to learn the several benefits you will enjoy. Our criminal defense attorney can help you understand more about pardons. Applying for a governor's pardon comes with many benefits, including:

  • Rights to possess a firearm.
  • Right to have a lawyer.
  • Right to work in government jobs like a patrol agent, probation officer, etc.
  • Your registration as a sex offender ends if you have previously faced a conviction for a sex crime.

The pardon does not erase your conviction from background checks. Therefore, you must complete your expungement before applying for a governor's pardon.

How to Apply for a Governor's Pardon

When applying for a governor's pardon, you want to seek legal help from your criminal defense attorney. The attorney will guide you through the legal steps required. The following are the steps to take:

  1. You want to begin the process by seeking a certificate of rehabilitation or expungement. The two provide evidence that you served your jail term to completion. The rehabilitation certificate shows you are eligible to seek a governor's pardon. Again, the certificate acts as a strong document to favor your pardon.
  2. Before applying, you want to assemble documents that show you are a law-abiding and responsible citizen. The documentation includes volunteer programs, providing for your children, alcohol treatment, working steadily, etc. You may also bring letters from your pastor, community leaders, neighbors, and employers attesting to your good character.
  3. You want to notify all counties that you have been convicted of a felony. Afterward, you must file a notice of intention to apply for a traditional pardon with the District lawyer. You want to file the formal document ten days before applying for the pardon.
  4. Finally, you want to submit your application for a pardon to the governor's office. In the application, you want to include the evidence supporting your application.

Who Decides Whether to Approve Your Governor's Pardon

The decision on whether to approve your pardon rests with the California governor. When you submit your application, the governor's office opens an investigation into your history and background. They check if you are leading a clean life by investigating your disciplinary records while serving your jail term, arrest records, etc.

If you have been leading an honest life after your jail term, your chances of receiving the pardon are higher. To increase your chances of receiving the pardon, you want to assemble as many documents as possible to show you are living as a lawful citizen. Again, you want to have an attorney by your side to prepare your application.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Do not let a small mistake you made decades ago haunt your future life. You want to delete your criminal record and begin a new life. But you must work with a criminal defense attorney to help you erase the criminal records. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we are here to help you move on with your life without the burden of criminal records hanging over your head. If you seek to expunge your criminal records in Los Angeles, our attorneys are ready to help you. Contact us today at 916-779-3500, and we will start working on your case immediately.