The aftermath of a domestic violence conviction can be an overwhelming experience. The weight of a criminal record can cast a shadow on every aspect of life, hindering opportunities and causing emotional distress. The consequences of a domestic violence conviction can be far-reaching, impacting personal relationships, employment prospects, and even housing opportunities. However, there is hope for those seeking to break free from the chains of their past mistakes through expungement. This article helps you understand domestic violence expungement.
Common Domestic Violence Offenses That Can Be Expunged
Domestic violence offenses encompass a range of abusive behaviors committed against an intimate partner or a family member. These offenses are covered under California's domestic violence laws, which are aimed at protecting victims from physical, emotional, and psychological harm.
Some common domestic violence offenses in California, as defined by the California Penal Code, include:
- Domestic battery (Penal Code 243(e)(1)) — This offense involves willfully inflicting force or violence upon an intimate partner, such as a spouse, cohabitant, or dating partner.
- Corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant (Penal Code 273.5) — This offense involves inflicting a corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon an intimate partner.
- Criminal threats (Penal Code 422) — When an individual threatens to harm their intimate partner or family member, it can be charged as a domestic violence offense under California's criminal threats statute.
- Child abuse (Penal Code 273d) — Domestic violence involving child abuse refers to causing physical injury or cruel punishment to a child, resulting in harm.
- Violation of a domestic violence restraining order (Penal Code 273.6) — Violating a domestic violence restraining order, which prohibits contact with an intimate partner or family member, is a criminal offense.
- Stalking (Penal Code 646.9) — Stalking involves willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing another person and making credible threats against them with the intent to cause them to fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.
- Criminal trespass (Penal Code 602) — Unlawfully entering someone's dwelling, property, or domestic residence with the intent to commit a crime or cause harm can be considered a domestic violence-related offense.
- Child endangerment (Penal Code 273a) — Child endangerment charges can be applied when a child is placed in a situation where they are likely to suffer unjustifiable pain or suffering due to the actions of a parent or caregiver.
- Revenge porn (Penal Code 647(j)(4)) — Sharing intimate or explicit images or videos of an intimate partner without their consent with the intent to cause emotional distress can be charged as a domestic violence-related offense.
- False imprisonment (Penal Code 236) — Unlawfully restraining or confining an intimate partner or family member against their will can lead to false imprisonment charges, which may be considered a domestic violence offense.
- Elder abuse (Penal Code 368) — Domestic violence involving elderly family members or intimate partners falls under California's elder abuse laws, which protect vulnerable adults from physical, emotional, or financial abuse.
- Child neglect (Penal Code 270) — As a parent or legal guardian, failing to provide your child with necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education is a criminal offense.
What is Expungement?
Expungement is a legal process that allows individuals with certain criminal convictions to petition the court to have their conviction set aside or dismissed from their criminal record. In essence, it provides an opportunity for individuals to clear their criminal record, making it less visible to the general public, including potential employers and landlords.
In general, expungement is available for individuals who have completed their sentence, probation, or parole and have demonstrated good conduct since their conviction. Once the court grants an expungement, the conviction is considered "dismissed" for most purposes.
This means that individuals can legally state that they have not been convicted of the expunged offense on job applications and other documents. Note that expungement does not entirely erase the criminal record. Law enforcement agencies, certain employers, and government agencies may still have access to the expunged records for specific purposes. However, it significantly improves an individual's chances of moving forward without the burden of a visible criminal conviction on their record.
The Benefits of Expungement
Here are the benefits of expungement for domestic violence convicts who would like to rebuild their lives:
- Clearing the criminal record — Expungement allows individuals to clear their domestic violence conviction from their criminal record, making it no longer visible to most employers and other background checks.
- Improved employment prospects — With an expunged record, individuals have a better chance of securing employment, as they no longer need to disclose the expunged conviction in most job applications.
- Enhanced housing opportunities — Expungement can improve the chances of renting a home or apartment, as landlords are less likely to consider expunged convictions during the application process.
- Restoration of civil rights — Expungement can restore certain civil rights lost due to the conviction, such as the right to serve on a jury and possess a firearm.
- Sense of closure and renewed opportunities — Expungement provides a fresh start and a sense of closure for individuals who have completed their sentences, empowering them to move forward with a clean slate and new opportunities.
Note that while expungement offers significant benefits, not all domestic violence convictions are eligible for expungement. Seeking legal advice from an experienced expungement attorney can help individuals determine their eligibility and guide them through the expungement process, increasing the likelihood of rebuilding their life after a domestic violence conviction.
Eligibility Criteria for Expungement in Domestic Violence Cases
The eligibility criteria for expungement in domestic violence cases can vary based on the specific circumstances of the conviction and the type of offense. However, in general, individuals may be eligible for expungement if they meet the following criteria:
- Completion of the sentence — The individual must have successfully completed their entire sentence, including probation, parole, or any court-ordered programs or classes related to the conviction.
- No current criminal charges — The individual must not be facing any new criminal charges or be serving another sentence for a separate offense.
- Misdemeanor convictions — Domestic violence misdemeanor convictions are generally eligible for expungement in California. Some felonies may also be eligible if they were reduced to misdemeanors through a process called "felony reduction."
- Successful probation — If the individual was placed on probation, they must have fulfilled all the terms and conditions of their probation without any violations.
- Waiting period — In some cases, there may be a waiting period before becoming eligible for expungement. The waiting period typically starts from the date of the conviction or completion of the sentence and can vary based on the specific offense.
- No current restraining orders — If there are any active restraining orders against the individual, it might affect their eligibility for expungement.
Note that not all domestic violence convictions are eligible for expungement. For instance, serious felony offenses may not be eligible for expungement under California law. Additionally, some offenses may require a governor's pardon or a certificate of rehabilitation instead of expungement.
As expungement laws can be complex, seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney specializing in expungement services is crucial. They can review the specific details of the case, determine eligibility, and guide individuals through the expungement process, helping them to clear their criminal record and move forward towards a brighter future.
The Expungement Process
The expungement process involves several steps that individuals need to follow to clear their criminal records. Here is an overview of the typical process:
- Determine eligibility — The first step is to determine whether you are eligible for expungement.
- Obtain court documents — Obtain copies of your court documents, including the judgment of the conviction and the probation order. These documents will be required for the expungement petition.
- Fill out the petition — Prepare the expungement petition, which is a formal legal document requesting the court to dismiss your conviction.
- File the petition — File the completed expungement petition with the clerk of the court where your conviction occurred. Pay the necessary filing fees.
- Serve the District Attorney — After filing the petition, you must serve a copy of the petition to the District Attorney's office. This allows them to review the petition and respond if they choose to do so.
- Court hearing — In some cases, a court hearing may be scheduled to review your expungement petition. If the court is satisfied that you meet the eligibility criteria and there are no objections from the prosecution, they may grant the expungement.
- Expungement granted — If the court grants the expungement, your conviction will be set aside, and the case will be dismissed. You will not have a criminal record, which can improve your future prospects.
- Update your record — Once your expungement is granted, you may need to update your record with various agencies, such as law enforcement and background check providers, to reflect the dismissal. Your attorney can help you do this.
Note that the expungement process can be complex. Seeking legal assistance from an experienced expungement attorney can ensure that you follow the correct procedures and increase the likelihood of a successful expungement.
How an Expungement Attorney Can Help You
An expungement attorney can provide invaluable assistance throughout the process of clearing your criminal record. Here are some ways an expungement attorney can help you:
- Eligibility assessment — An expungement attorney will review your criminal record and assess your eligibility for expungement based on California law. They can determine if you meet the necessary criteria and advise you on the best course of action.
- Guidance and advice — Your attorney will explain the expungement process, the potential outcomes, and the steps you need to take. They will answer any questions you have, ensuring you fully understand the implications and benefits of seeking expungement.
- Document preparation — Expungement petitions involve specific legal procedures and paperwork. Your attorney will help you complete the necessary forms accurately and ensure all required documents are properly filed with the court.
- Legal representation — If there is a need for a court hearing or if the district attorney opposes the expungement, your attorney will represent you in court. They will argue on your behalf, presenting evidence and making a case for why your conviction should be dismissed.
- Navigate complex laws — Expungement laws in California can be complex, and the eligibility criteria may vary depending on the offense. An experienced attorney understands these intricacies and can help you navigate the legal complexities.
- Improve chances of success — Having an attorney with expertise in expungement cases increases your chances of success. They will leverage their knowledge and experience to present a strong case for your expungement, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
- Save time and effort — The expungement process can be time-consuming and requires attention to detail. Hiring an attorney allows you to focus on other aspects of your life while they handle the legal complexities on your behalf.
- Post-expungement benefits — After the expungement is granted, an attorney can assist in updating your criminal record with various agencies to reflect the dismissal, ensuring that you can enjoy the benefits of a cleared record.
Overall, an expungement attorney is your advocate and guide throughout the process, working to help you clear your criminal record and move forward with a fresh start. Their expertise and support are essential in maximizing the chances of a successful expungement, enabling you to rebuild your life with renewed opportunities.
Find a Sacramento Expungement Attorney Near Me
In the journey of seeking redemption and a brighter future, expungement emerges as a beacon of hope for individuals who have previously faced domestic violence convictions. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we understand the challenges you have endured and the dreams you aspire to achieve. Our commitment to helping you rebuild your life after a domestic violence conviction drives us to provide exceptional expungement services tailored to California's legal landscape.
If you are seeking to expunge your domestic violence conviction, do not hesitate to take the first step towards a renewed future. Reach out to us and allow us to evaluate your eligibility for expungement, answer your questions, and guide you through the process with compassion and expertise. Call us at 916-779-3500.