In life, we all make mistakes, and some of these mistakes can continue to haunt us for many years. A criminal record, for example, can significantly restrict your opportunities in the future. Even if you have no convictions, your criminal history can affect your insurance premiums, credit, job, and reputation in the community. Regardless of the situation, many individuals have a strong desire to clear their conviction records and make progress in their lives. This can be done through expungement. This article provides a comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know about expungement.
What is Expungement?
Expungement involves the legal process of appealing to a court to have a prior conviction overturned. An expungement serves as an option under California PC 1203.4 in any situation where the court " decides that you deserve to be allowed relief."
This implies that the judicial system has the authority to determine whether your case is worthy of being erased and hence eliminated from your record. Although PC 1203.4 specifies certain conditions, like having your probation time terminated early or completing probation, the court makes the ultimate decision whether or not to remove your conviction record.
Obtaining an Expungement
There are a number of requirements that have to be met before a California conviction can be erased. These include the following:
- You should have fully paid all court fees and fines related to your conviction.
- You should not have served prison time for the offense for which you were found guilty. The only exception to this provision is if you were found guilty after the enactment of Prop 47 and sentenced to jail instead of prison. You could still qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation if you spent time in prison.
- If you're currently facing charges for a crime or are serving a prison or jail sentence, you won't be able to get an expungement of a prior conviction.
- Individuals found guilty of specific sex crimes are ineligible for expungement.
Even if you don't qualify for expungement, you could be able to obtain a governor's pardon, a certificate of rehabilitation, or some other type of relief. A rehabilitation certificate could reinstate your right to possess or own firearms, participate on a jury panel, and cast votes during elections.
Additionally, you have the right to plead with the court for an early termination of your probation term under California PC 1203.3. If allowed, your criminal record will be wiped at the same time. A seasoned lawyer can assist you in obtaining the best possible settlement in your lawsuit.
Although it may not be technically necessary, it is often easier to seek an expungement if you have fulfilled every element of your punishment, such as avoiding infringements on your probation conditions. However, the simple fact that you violated your probation doesn't bar you from getting an expungement.
The Expungement Process
When pursuing an expungement, your lawyer will begin by requesting the court to review your conviction record. If the court believes that the case meets the merits to be erased, you could withdraw your no-contest plea, guilty plea, or the verdict of guilt that was issued against you under PC 1203.4.
The presiding judge will then allow you to make a "not guilty" plea, and the verdict will be overturned. This dismissal implies that it could be removed from your arrest file. In most cases, you won't have to appear at the court proceedings to wrap up the expungement procedure. Instead, your lawyer will be allowed to make an appearance on your behalf in most situations.
How California Expungement Affects Your Criminal File and Employment
Many people feel anxious that a previous conviction may be revealed when an employer, landlord, or other individual conducts a "background check" on them. While expungement does not completely erase a previous conviction from a police record, it does indicate that the conviction was "dismissed in the interests of justice."
According to California PC 1203.4, a successful expungement removes almost "all restrictions and penalties resulting from the crime." For most individuals, one of the most essential advantages of expungement is the freedom to reply "no" on future employment applications when asked if they have been found guilty of any offense. This allows you to start over in your profession without having to worry about a prior criminal record.
The provisions of California law prevent businesses from being biased against individuals based on an expunged record. If a prospective employer requests information about an expunged conviction, the employee has the right to file a lawsuit for monetary damages under California law. There are a few exceptions to this law, such as, if you're applying for a position in the police department.
Having a previous conviction expunged can also help you get student loans, professional licensing, and housing. Expungement doesn't exempt you from any court-ordered requirement to register as a sexual offender.
Parties Eligible for an Expungement
Individuals found guilty of California misdemeanors or felony crimes can qualify for a record expungement if they:
- Fulfilled all of the conditions of their probation sentence.
- Were not sentenced to serve prison time for the crime.
- Served prison time but could have been sentenced to jail time instead had the crime occurred after the enactment of Prop 47.
California voters approved Prop 47 in 2014 intending to reduce penalties for specific theft and drug-related crimes. The law reduced some previously charged felony crimes, or wobblers, to misdemeanors. If you're facing felony charges for such crimes, you can plead with the court for resentencing. This can result in reducing the sentence to misdemeanors instead of felonies.
Under Proposition 47, the following felony crimes were lowered to misdemeanors under specific settings:
- Grand theft auto.
- Writing bad checks.
- Grand theft using a firearm.
- Receiving property that was stolen.
Note that if you're currently under investigation for a crime, have been convicted of a crime, are in the process of serving a prison term for a crime, or are out on probation, you won’t be entitled to expungement. You also remain ineligible for record expungement if you’re found guilty of sex offenses involving minors, such as the following:
- Sodomy with a minor.
- Statutory rape.
- Engaging in lewd activities with a minor.
- Oral copulation with a minor.
How To Expunge A California Criminal Record
Expungement can be a complicated and challenging process with plenty of room for error. A professional criminal defense attorney, on the other hand, can successfully help you through this process.
You should be aware of the necessary documents and have them submitted to the courthouse where the proceeding was heard. The next step is to get yourself ready for your court date. Depending on the circumstances, you, the defendant, may or may not be required to appear. If your motion gets approved, your defense attorney will seal your case, rendering your criminal records inaccessible to the public.
Sentences Reduced for Expungement
If you've been found guilty of a felony crime, your sentence can be reduced to a misdemeanor. Crimes that can be tried as either a misdemeanor or felony are often referred to as "wobblers." The court has the authority to lower a felony conviction to a misdemeanor, even if it occurred many years ago.
To have a felony conviction removed from your record, you must first have the conviction lowered to a misdemeanor. An experienced defense attorney can assess your record and assist you in determining whether your past felony conviction is suitable for this type of adjustment.
How Long Does the Process of Expungement Take?
If you're unsuccessful in securing an expungement of your criminal record, it's crucial to note that you can still appeal to the court for an expungement later in the future.
The grounds given by the court for resolving not to erase your conviction could vary from improperly filled-out documents to determining why you aren't eligible under the provisions of the law. Serious sexual offenses against minors, for example, fall under the category of felony charges that do not qualify for expungement.
If you applied for expungement on your own and the court rejected it, you should seek an expert attorney to help you refile. You're able to refile your California expungement petition after six months have passed since your initial petition was rejected.
Although getting rid of a criminal record normally takes between sixty and 120 days, courts could take much longer, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several factors can influence the duration of the expungement process, including whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony, the nature of the case, and the amount of time that has passed since the conviction.
How Does Expungement Differ from Destroying and Sealing Records?
Most people confuse sealing and deleting an arrest record under PEN 851.87 and expungement of criminal convictions when investigating how to clean their records. You can qualify to have your arrest record destroyed and sealed under PC 851.87 if any of the following apply:
- You were apprehended, but no charges were filed against you.
- The court ruled in your favor and the charges against you were dropped.
- The jury found you not guilty and acquitted you of the charges.
- You successfully finished the diversion program.
When a judge seals and destroys any arrest record, it implies that you are innocent of the charges and can now claim you have never been detained for any crime. The distinction between this statute and expungement is that under PC 851.87, only police arrests that didn't lead to a sentence of imprisonment are eligible for sealing. If you have been found guilty of a crime, you must apply for expungement under PC 1203.4.
Benefits of Expunging a Criminal Record
In the past, only law enforcement officials could learn about a person's criminal history. Nowadays, everyone's criminal record can be easily accessed on the internet, and any individual curious about your record can learn about your convictions by simply running a check on your background. The most important advantage of a record expungement is that those who have had a conviction sealed from their records don't have to reveal it to prospective employers. If you have your file expunged, an employer can't be biased against you when considering job applicants.
A record expungement can sometimes help foreign nationals avoid being deported and other immigration repercussions. Expungement also makes it easy to seek professional licenses. Additionally, expunged convictions can’t affect a person's credibility as an eyewitness in court.
It's crucial to note that an expungement is not the answer for all individuals with criminal convictions. PC 1203.4 sets a number of conditions on what a record expungement can do, as follows:
- It can't reinstate a revoked or suspended driver's license.
- According to PC 290, it can't repeal the necessity for sex offenders to register.
- It can't reinstate your firearm ownership rights under PC 29800.
The most significant restrictions on expunging a conviction include those that apply to punishment and the prosecution of subsequent crimes.
For instance, a conviction could still serve as a "past conviction" for enhancing the sentencing of another offense, like a subsequent drunk driving arrest, even though it has been erased. Furthermore, an expunged record that would have been designated a strike crime under the Three Strikes rule will still be tallied towards the three strikes.
Find an Expungement Attorney Near Me
Securing a job opportunity and an apartment in a decent neighborhood can be challenging. On the other hand, having a criminal record on your file could make it even more challenging to be hired or allowed to rent any property. Additionally, it could ruin your image and hinder your chances of obtaining or keeping a professional license.
Fortunately, if you're found guilty of certain misdemeanors and felonies, you could have the conviction on your record expunged. This implies that you can assert that you’ve never been convicted of a crime. Expunging your convictions can provide you with a fresh start to steer your life in the right direction. If you're interested in learning more about your expungement options, contact the Foos Gavin Law Firm in Sacramento. You can reach us at 916-779-3500.