Drug-related charges can have a lasting effect on your life, even after you have served your term or faced the penalties of the sentence. If you have been convicted of a drug crime, it will certainly remain on your record. However, there are specific circumstances in which these charges can be removed. If you meet certain requirements, you can have them removed. This article covers everything you need to know about getting your drug charges expunged. 

What Is Expungement? 

An expungement refers to the process through which a conviction record is deleted or removed from federal or state records. Most expungement cases take place in state-level courts. As a result, California has its own unique set of regulations that govern the proceedings. 

The terms sealing and expunging are sometimes used interchangeably. Although both of them have a similar broad concept of removing a conviction from one's record, they are not the same. Expunging destroys or erases the record. Sealing normally conceals information from the general public, but certain private companies and government agencies might still have access to it. 

Overview of Drug Charge Expungement 

There are numerous drug-related criminal charges, such as simple drug possession, possession to distribute, drug sale or distribution, and drug trafficking. Drug charges can also vary in nature and severity. 

Drug convictions can be classified as low-level summary crimes or infractions, or they may be classified as felonies, resulting in a prolonged prison sentence. Although each drug-related charge is unique, having a drug crime conviction on your file could make it harder to secure a job. Fortunately, California allows for the expungement of different types of drug offenses.

California has its own set of expungement laws. Therefore, you should contact a professional criminal defense attorney to help you navigate through the expungement process. 

Who Qualifies for a Drug Charge Expungement? 

As a general rule, PC 1203.4 allows for the expungement of any misdemeanor offense or the expungement of a felony crime if you have completed probation and are not currently: 

  • Facing charges for another crime.
  • Serving probation time for another offense.
  • Serving a prison sentence for another crime.

If you're filing for California PEN 1203.4 relief, you should have completed your probation or secured an early probation termination. Completing probation indicates: 

  • You met all probation conditions, which include paying all court fines, completing any counseling programs, restitution, and community service.
  • You attended all mandatory court proceedings.
  • You didn't engage in any new offenses while serving probation.

How “Realignment” Affects Eligibility Under California PEN 1203.4 

If you were sentenced to prison, either during the time of your conviction or as a result of a probation infringement, you are unlikely to be eligible for a drug charge expungement. However, there's an exception to this rule if you have completed your jail term in a county jail, provided the offense was committed after "realignment." 

The Benefits of Having a Drug Conviction Expunged 

If you're found guilty of a drug-related crime, you could be concerned about how the sentence could affect your life. It's crucial to understand the severe consequences of any form of criminal conviction, such as a drug-related crime. A criminal conviction can affect your housing, education, career, and ability to secure financing or professional licensing. Getting a drug charge eliminated from your file can significantly reduce the negative effects. 

The vast majority of hiring managers and employers carry out background checks. Regardless of the circumstances of the incident, most employers will turn down a prospective employee if anything surfaces on their criminal background check. Employers in various sectors can turn down a former drug offender's application even if they thoroughly review the report. They could be unaware of the various degrees of drug crime or the length of time that has passed since you were convicted. 

Employers are wary of recruiting an individual who they believe is under the influence of illicit substances while at work. However, after the record has been cleared, finding work should be a lot easier. If you get your drug charge record erased, your employer would not be able to access the arrest report or court proceedings. A record sealing or expungement can also enable you to legitimately say "no" to inquiries about your criminal history on housing and job applications. 

After a conviction, California PC 1203.4 permits expungement as a form of relief. It frees you from "all consequences and disadvantages" brought on by a conviction. An expungement can also help you obtain or keep your California professional license, as well as join a variety of professional organizations. Being cleared of a crime provides a "clean slate" from a criminal past. 

The specific perks of expungement can vary based on what the state's laws offer. Expungement rules are intended to make it simpler for worthy individuals to reintegrate into society. If you're qualified for any form of record-clearing settlement for a drug offense, you should take advantage of it, even if it seems unnecessary at the moment. 

The Expungement Procedure for Getting Drug Charges Removed 

The location of the incident has a significant impact on the procedure for expunging drug charges from your record. State law regulates if and when you're entitled to have your criminal record expunged, as well as how the procedure works if you're eligible. The process for expunging drug offenses from your criminal record remains the same for both possession and distribution. 

The steps are as follows: 

Hire a Lawyer 

The expungement procedure requires a lot of time, effort, and paperwork. There are numerous chances for error, which could result in an application being rejected. However, competent criminal defense lawyers understand how to shorten the process and do it right the first time.

Complete the Necessary Forms 

A professional criminal defense lawyer understands which documents are appropriate in different situations. Otherwise, most application forms can be found in the relevant courtrooms or by carrying out an internet search. 

For instance, if you finished summary probation, you could submit an appeal for the dismissal of a misdemeanor crime under California PEN 1203.4. If your probation sentence hasn't been completed, you have to file an appeal for dismissal of your probation. If that gets turned down, you could pursue an appeal for dismissal. 

Felony crimes can't be purged unless they are reduced to misdemeanor crimes. Courts often allow requests to lower wobbler crimes to misdemeanors. Non-wobbler felonies, on the other hand, can only be lowered to misdemeanors by completing a form under California PEN 17b3. Only after that can you file a petition under California PEN 1203.4 to have a misdemeanor dismissed. 

It's also worth noting that each conviction has to be purged using a separate form. Character references could also be included in the expungement application. 

Apply For Expungement 

Once the necessary forms have been completed, they should be submitted to the court for the case to be heard. In most cases, the court would answer within 5 months. The rules and costs differ for each court. Forms for expungements may need to be mailed or submitted in person. 

It is vital to file documentation on time. For instance, you should give the prosecution team at least fifteen days' notice before the hearing. This allows the prosecutor to assess the circumstances and challenge the case if necessary. If you are unable to pay the filing fees, you could be eligible for financial assistance. 

Make Plans For the Expungement Hearing 

The case determines whether you are required to attend your expungement hearing. Your defense lawyer will keep you updated and, if required, assist you in preparing for the case. 

In the end, the presiding judge will decide whether to award an expungement. There's no jury in this case. You have a better chance of getting the expungement if: 

  • You can keep a job.
  • There were no other convictions.
  • Have completed all community service requirements.

Refile the Petition If It's Rejected, And If It's Approved, Seal the Expungement 

If the court declines your expungement petition, you have six months to submit a new case with any necessary revisions. If the court approves the expungement, your defense lawyer will seal the record so that it's no longer accessible to the public. Furthermore, you can claim that you have never had a criminal record. 

There are some exceptions, such as if you: 

  • Run for public office.
  • Apply for any state permit.
  • Apply for a job with the State lottery commission.

Possibilities of Getting a Drug Charge Expunged 

It is quite challenging to predict a person's likelihood of success in having a drug charge dismissed. The possibility can vary depending on the precise crime, the punishment, the length of time since the incident, and the state's laws. 

If you finished a drug diversion course or another kind of pre-trial intervention program, California law can offer a road to expungement. The easiest approach for figuring out if your drug conviction can be expunged is to first determine if you are qualified for an application under the law by passing the eligibility test. 

If you are statutorily qualified but still have concerns about the merits of your case, it would be advisable to discuss the nature of your convictions with a lawyer. They can help determine what kind of evidence might be compelling, especially if the court has discretion in deciding whether to approve or reject your drug charges. 

Types of Drug-Related Charges That Can Be Expunged 

There are several offenses linked to prohibited substances that can be penalized. Some of these crimes involve possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia, using a controlled substance, possessing controlled substances to distribute or sell them, transporting a prohibited substance, and cultivating marijuana. 

Different parts of the country have different laws regarding how to deal with these crimes. The same holds for expungement laws. California law only allows for the removal of minor drug-related charges like simple possession. While most drug accusations lead to convictions, making them unsuitable for expungement, you could qualify to have your record wiped provided you meet certain conditions within each case. 

Distribution, Sale, and Possession of Drugs With The Intent To Sell 

California law allows you to get your drug possession charges erased if you do not have more than an ounce of marijuana in your possession. You have to demonstrate to the courts that the quantity in your possession at the time was less than the specified amount. This information is usually included in plea transcripts, which are included in the sentencing documents. 

If you have a 1st- or 2nd-degree drug offense, you can't generally have it removed from your conviction record. 3rd or fourth-degree drug charges, on the other hand, can be dropped if the court determines it's in the public's best interest. They will usually base their decision on your character, behavior, and the nature of the drug charge. 

If you're charged with only drug possession, such as a simple possession offense, you could be able to get a drug charge expungement. To find out the laws, it is important to confirm with your attorney and the appropriate authorities. If you are unable to do so, seeking assistance from a criminal defense attorney can be beneficial. 

It is worth noting that convictions for conspiring to distribute, sell, or possess drugs may be eligible for expungement. You'll need to examine the state’s regulations to see if your case is eligible for expungement.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me 

Having your drug charges erased can be a lengthy and challenging procedure, and it may not be accessible for everyone. To pursue this option, you will need to compile all the relevant paperwork, apply for an expungement, and complete the necessary documentation to have the charges deleted. If you are hesitant about going through the steps alone, it’s a good idea to engage an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you expunge your drug crimes from the public record. Our Sacramento lawyers at the Foos Gavin Law Firm will guide you through the complicated legal process. Call us now at 916-779-3500.