Once you are arrested, charged with a crime, or convicted, the history is added to your criminal records and can limit your future and life. In today’s world, almost all employers perform background checks as part of the hiring process. Professional licensing boards, landlords, and colleges also consider these records.
In Sacramento, it is possible to expunge everything related to your crime (criminal record clearing), making it inaccessible to the public. After the expungement, you can legally conceal the information if asked about the conviction. However, the process is complicated and requires legal assistance. This article will help you understand the process, its benefits, and limitations, and whether you qualify.
Defining California Expungement
Most landlords and employers in Sacramento run background checks to reveal your criminal history. That implies that getting the record expunged can significantly affect your quality of life if you have previous convictions.
An expungement under Penal Code 1203.4 is a post-conviction relief that releases a person from the penalties and consequences related to a conviction. It gives the defendant a new beginning.
Eligible Candidates of Expungement
You qualify to expunge either your felony or misdemeanor criminal records, provided:
- You have completed probation (formal probation or summary probation).
- You are not presently:
- Prosecuted with a crime
- On probation
- Serving a time
If you are contemplating applying for expungement, you should have completed probation or acquired an early termination of probation.
Completing probation implies that the defendant:
- Completed the probation terms and conditions, including paying fines, engaging in community service, and completing counseling programs.
- Attended the scheduled court hearings either through a lawyer or personally).
- Did not violate another law while on probation.
Early Termination of Probation
To obtain this relief, per Penal Code Section 1203.3 PC, you should file a motion with the prosecution and the court two days before the court hearing date. During your court hearing, your lawyer will request the judge approve the motion by arguing that your “good conduct and reform” give grounds for your motion and that terminating the probation is in the interests of justice.
Good conduct and reform mean you have met your probation terms, like:
- Paying fines.
- Completing court-ordered programs.
- Paying victim restitution.
- Performing community service.
- Not violating another law, and
- Completing counseling sessions.
Other factors the judge considers before granting the motion include the following:
- The seriousness of the underlying crime.
- The prosecuting attorney’s opinion.
- Your criminal record.
- Whether probation has caused you hardship.
The criminal procedure law allows you to request that the court terminate your probation at any time. However, some courts and judges cannot terminate probation early until the defendant has completed the following:
- Eighteen months of a California felony probation sentence, or
- A year of misdemeanor probation sentence.
How Realignment Affects Expungement Eligibility
You are not eligible for expungement if you served time in state prison due to a probation violation or after trial.
However, you can qualify for criminal record clearing if the judge would have sent you to jail had you violated the law after 2011’s Proposition 47 Realignment legislation. This exception is not automatic, and judges grant the expungement if they think it would be in the interests of justice.
Who Is Not Eligible for Expungement
As previously mentioned, your criminal records cannot be cleared if the judge sentences you to prison unless the offense is one you would now serve in county jail.
Some felony criminal records that cannot be cleared in California include the following:
- A sex crime against children, including statutory rape, lascivious conduct with a child, and sodomy with a minor.
- Assault with a deadly weapon that results in severe injuries.
- Capital offenses.
- Crimes punishable by life imprisonment.
Can a Defendant Expunge a Criminal Record If They Did Not Fulfill Probation Conditions?
One requirement of California expungement is meeting your probation conditions. So, what happens if you break the probation terms?
The judge can schedule a hearing to decide whether you qualify for expungement.
Some of the factors the judge considers include:
- The severity of the crime.
- The criminal history.
- Performance and conduct while on probation.
- Evidence that proves you deserve this post-conviction relief, including the ability to secure employment, support your family, and have community ties.
Benefits of Expungement in California
There are several benefits to seeking expungement, including:
Help Securing Employment
For many, the most significant advantage of expunging criminal records is that it can aid them in finding a job, notwithstanding having criminal records and a conviction.
Most companies today conduct background checks before employing any job applicant. Typically, the background check reveals the applicant’s arrest records, probation status, and conviction records.
After clearing your criminal records, Penal Code 1203.4 allows you to legally respond “no” to questions regarding your previous conviction. Also, Assembly Bill 1008 bans employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history before the company has offered a conditional position to the applicant. The company cannot deny the applicant work based on an expunged criminal conviction.
You Can Obtain a State Professional License with Ease
Most California licensing authorities will analyze the case more favorably if a person has completed probation.
However, it would be best to reveal your conviction in response to questions asked in state professional license applications or applications for public employment. It includes applying for law enforcement positions, the United States military, and state bar or real estate licenses. Failing to disclose your conviction can result in a job application or license denial and criminal perjury charges.
Your Credibility as a Witness in a Courtroom
If you have a previous California felony conviction and serve as a witness, the opposing side could mention the conviction to question your credibility. Fortunately, the expunged conviction cannot affect your credibility as a witness in a courtroom (unless you are prosecuted for another criminal charge).
This benefit comes in handy when you are sued or suing another person for compensation in a civil lawsuit, and your testimony is crucial to the case's outcome.
Comes With Satisfaction
Most defendants feel relieved once the judge grants the expungement petition. While it will not erase your past, you can close this devastating chapter of your life, bringing redemption for your mistakes.
Limitations of California Expungement
Some issues a California expungement will not do include the following:
- Restoring your firearm rights per PC 29800 (felon with a firearm).
- Ending your responsibility to register as a sex offender under PC 290.
- Overturning your driver’s license revocation or suspension.
The expunged conviction is still considered a strike per the California three-strikes laws.
Also, the prosecution team can still use the expunged conviction to increase your penalties. For instance, if you are accused of subsequent drunk driving within ten years of your first conviction, the judge can increase your sentencing, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles can enhance your driver’s license suspension duration.
It is worth noting that a DUI expungement will not affect your car insurance rates. Your conviction expungement neither removes nor seals your driving history from the insurer's databases. Therefore, the conviction does not affect the quote your auto insurance provider will give you.
Finally, expungement will not preclude the immigration repercussions of a conviction, like denial of naturalization and deportation.
The California expungement process begins with bringing a petition to the court. You can file your petition in person, with the probation officer, or with your criminal defense attorney.
Then the judge will either:
- Allow you to withdraw the plea of nolo contendere or guilty before entering a plea of not guilty, or
- Set aside your guilty verdict they ruled after your plea of not guilty.
In both cases, the judge will dismiss your accusations, releasing you from every penalty and disability arising from the crime.
Discussed below are the steps involved in criminal record expungement:
Hiring a Skilled Expungement Attorney
Some reasons for hiring an expungement lawyer include the following:
- Legal expertise — California expungement procedures and laws can be complicated. Your qualified attorney has the legal expertise and knowledge to navigate the process. They are also well-versed in the required paperwork, requirements, and deadlines, increasing your chance of obtaining a favorable case outcome.
- Determining your eligibility — Once you contact your lawyer, they will assess your criminal case and evaluate factors like the nature of the crime, the duration that has passed since your conviction, and your criminal history to determine whether you meet the expungement eligibility criteria.
- Legal representation — The legal professional will develop strategies based on your case details. Additionally, they will represent you during legal proceedings associated with your expungement, including negotiations and court hearings.
- Save time and money — Like all legal procedures, navigating expungement alone can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Retaining an attorney allows you to pay attention to other facets of your life while they tackle the legal intricacies.
- Case preparation — Your criminal record-clearing lawyer knows what information is essential for building your case. They will work with you to collect and organize the necessary evidence and documentation.
Filling Out the Required Paperwork
You will require Form CR-180 (the Petition for Dismissal) and Form CR-181 (the Order for Dismissal). Form CR-180 is the formal document you use to request that the judge clear your criminal records. If the court approves the expungement, the judge will sign Form CR-181, making the expungement a court order.
You can obtain the forms from either:
- Your expungement attorney.
- The California Court’s official website.
- The Clerk of the court where you were convicted.
After completing summary probation, you should fill out an application to dismiss your misdemeanor, per Penal Code Section 1203.4 PC. If you have not completed probation, you must complete a petition to terminate your probation.
You cannot expunge your felony conviction until you reduce it to a misdemeanor. Typically, a court will grant any request to reduce a wobbler (a crime charged as a misdemeanor or felony) to a misdemeanor. However, a non-wobbler felony can only become a California misdemeanor by filing a PC 17b motion.
You should complete a form for each criminal record to be cleared. Additionally, you should file character references with your petition.
Filing for Expungement
After filling out the relevant paperwork, you should file it with the criminal court handling your case. You either mail your expungement forms or deliver them in person. The court should respond within five months.
The filing fee depends on your county of residence and whether you were convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor. You can receive financial help with your filing fees if you are indigent.
You should file your paperwork on time. For example, you should give the prosecution a fifteen-day notice before your expungement hearing. The prosecution team can review your case and determine whether to object to your request.
Preparing for the Hearing
Your defense lawyer should guide you on how to prepare for your hearing. Whether you should attend the court hearing depends on the facts of your case.
The judge has the discretion to determine whether to approve the petition. Meeting your probation terms and having the ability to maintain employment increase your chances of obtaining a favorable case outcome.
If the judge denies your expungement, you can file another petition with the necessary changes.
If the judge approves the petition, your criminal defense lawyer should seal the criminal records so the public can no longer access them.
Removing Expunged Criminal Records from a Private Website
The internet remembers everything. If a website like an online database or newspaper published details about your criminal records and history, the public might access them even after you officially expunge your record. Getting these details removed can be overwhelming and might only sometimes be fruitful.
You can access your records through search engine searches. Based on your findings, you can contact the website and request that the administrator remove outdated information about the criminal history and records. Remember to present a copy of the court order verifying your expunged record.
The law requires online criminal record databases to rectify and update outdated information. However, not all entities remove the information. For instance, if an online newspaper posted information about your crime and the arrest when you committed it, it is not legally obligated to remove the story later.
Contact an Expungement Attorney Near Me
Making notable strides in life is challenging enough for most Sacramento residents, but struggling to make it with criminal records can be overwhelming. You might be denied housing, professional licenses, employment, and financial aid when your arrest or conviction appears on a background check. An expungement can help you limit the impact of the conviction, allowing you to have a fresh start. The skilled attorneys at Foos Gavin Law Firm can analyze your case to determine your eligibility, take the necessary steps to put your past behind you and explore your legal options.
Contact us at 916-779-3500 to arrange a free initial consultation with one of our compassionate lawyers.