Are you still facing life-altering consequences of a crime you committed many years back? Your criminal record can make it challenging to secure employment, an affordable apartment, education opportunities, and credit in Sacramento. Luckily, expungement under California PC 1203.4 allows you to erase your criminal records, making them inaccessible to employers and others. Expungement is available for both felonies and misdemeanors. Please continue reading this article to learn how felony expungement differs from misdemeanor expungement.
What is Expungement?
Expungement involves petitioning a court to withdraw your nolo contendere or guilty plea and plead not guilty. Per California PC 1203.4, California law lets you petition the court for criminal record expungement after completing probation, regardless of whether your conviction was a felony or misdemeanor.
After erasing your arrest records, the court reopens your criminal case and dismisses your guilty verdict. An expungement releases you from the penalties you face upon sentencing. While expungement will not delete your criminal records, it will make them appear “dismissed in the best interest of justice.” After the post-conviction relief, you can legally say no criminal history is under your name if anyone asks.
Benefits of Criminal Record Expungement in California
Under California PC 1203.4, record expungement clears an individual from penalties and discrimination that could result from a conviction. It gives you a fresh start and has numerous other benefits, including the following:
- Getting a job — Many employers perform background checks that show arrest documents, convictions, and probation status before hiring a job applicant. After a record expungement, your conviction record will no longer appear in background checks. Additionally, after expungement, you can say you have no criminal record if your potential employer inquires about it.
- Obtaining a loan — Loans provide financial stability after incarceration. Some lenders believe that people with criminal convictions are potential defaulters. It can lead to the financial provider denying your loan request or imposing high-interest premiums. Your expunged conviction will not affect your capacity to acquire a loan.
- Renting an apartment — Landlords perform background checks on prospective apartment tenants. After discovering a criminal conviction, they could refuse your application or ask for an inflated rent or deposit. However, you can easily apply for housing with your criminal record expunged.
- Obtaining a state license — Most professions require a professional license to practice. It includes medical practitioners, legal professionals, real estate experts, and contractors. While you must reveal any convictions when applying for state licenses, licensing boards are more willing to issue licenses to applicants with expunged records.
- Your credibility in court — If enlisted as a witness, your integrity is crucial to the case verdict. An opposing lawyer is prohibited from using your expunged conviction to bring your credibility into question as a witness in a civil case. Civil cases include family law, small claims, probate, and tenant and landlord cases. It does not apply to criminal offenses where expunged convictions are unprotected.
California Expungement Qualifications
Before learning about expungement eligibility, it is first essential to understand how a misdemeanor differs from a felony.
Misdemeanors are criminal offenses punishable by a sentence in jail not exceeding one (1) year, fines of up to $1,000, or misdemeanor probation. Misdemeanor crimes include the following:
- Petty theft (PC 484).
- Domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1)).
- Public drunkenness (PC 647(f)).
- Drug possession (HS 11350).
- Trespassing (PC 602).
- Driving under the influence without causing an injury (VC 23152(a)).
- Driving on a suspended license (VC 14601).
- Indecent exposure (PC 484).
In California, many misdemeanors qualify for expungement.
Felonies are the most severe criminal charges because some inflict alleged victims with great bodily harm. White-collar crimes are also felonies. A jury tries felonies and requires attorney representation. The punishment for felony offenses is death or a jail term of more than one year in state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The judge has the discretion to sentence a defendant to felony/formal probation.
Common felonies include murder, kidnapping, arson, assault using a firearm, carjacking, child pornography, lewd conduct with a minor, rape, and grand theft.
Eligibility for Misdemeanor Expungement
PC 1203.4 lets you delete your misdemeanor conviction if the following case facts apply:
- You have no pending criminal cases.
- You satisfied your conviction’s conditions.
- You have fulfilled your probation requirements.
- You have no pending probation or imprisonment for another crime.
Qualification for a Felony Expungement
Expungement is available for some felonies. However, courts cannot expunge your felony record if your crimes include the following:
- Sodomy against a minor.
- Oral copulation against a child.
- Lewd acts with a juvenile.
- Statutory rape.
- Fraud charges.
- Driving driving-related.
You cannot erase your criminal record in California if you were sentenced to prison. Nonetheless, the judge can grant your post-conviction relief request if you serve a sentence in jail. Serving a sentence because you violated the terms of your probation or sentence disqualifies you for an expungement. Proposition 47 of the Realignment Act exempts this California law if the court sent you to prison instead of jail and you violated the law after 2011.
Your expungement lawyer will file a petition, and the court could grant your criminal record expungement request if the following facts apply:
- You have no current criminal charges.
- You have satisfied your sentencing terms, like serving time, paying fines, and paying restitution.
- You have completed your probation.
- The judge has not sentenced you for another crime.
Misdemeanor Record Expungement Waiting Time
Filing for misdemeanor record expungement process can take about eight (8) weeks or longer. The following factors affect the duration:
- The court’s jurisdiction.
- Your criminal case complexity.
- Your conviction’s age.
Contrary to popular belief, your records do not get expunged automatically. Requesting an expungement is a personal responsibility. Otherwise, your criminal record will remain active, and any person conducting your background checks can see the records years later.
If your misdemeanor's nature warrants probation, your lawyer can request early release. Your knowledgeable lawyer should guide you in filing your early release petition and immediately requesting an expungement.
Once your probation is completed, you should immediately request an expungement from the court. There are no waiting periods for a California misdemeanor record expungement for convictions that involve serving probation. Nevertheless, for a conviction that never leads to probation time, you must wait a year, calculated from when the court entered judgment. The good news is that many misdemeanors culminate in probation, permitting you to petition the court for records expungement upon completing probation.
Felony Record Expungement Waiting Duration
In felony criminal record expungement, your prison sentence plays a significant role. You should wait two years before bringing your petition to court if your California felony crime culminated in time in jail and your sentence had no mandatory supervision. Also, you should wait a year if you served time in jail and your sentence included compulsory supervision.
You should apply for expungement two years after completing your sentence if you served a sentence in prison or your criminal case led to serving time in a county jail under the California Proposition 47 Alignment Act.
You are ineligible to petition for an expungement if you served time for your felony crime in prison. You can apply for other post-conviction alternatives, like the Governor’s Pardon (Penal Code Section 4852.21) or a Certificate of Rehabilitation (Penal Code 4852.01). However, these alternatives neither erase nor seal your criminal history.
The Process of Applying for a Felony Conviction Expungement in California
Upon meeting the conditions for an expungement, you should begin the expungement process by doing the following:
- Filling out the expungement forms in the court that resolved your case.
- Paying court fees.
- Attend an expungement petition hearing.
If sentenced for a wobbler crime as a California felony, your lawyer should work aggressively to reduce it to a misdemeanor. A wobbler is a crime that a prosecutor can charge as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the case facts. Once reduced, your record will show as a misdemeanor conviction instead of a felony.
You can file a petition in the following ways:
- Do it yourself.
- Through your post-conviction relief attorney.
- Asking for approval in writing from your probation officer.
Even though you can petition for a felony conviction expungement by yourself, it is wise to involve the help of a respectable and experienced legal practitioner. The lawyer will use their legal expertise to file the paperwork timely and correctly and represent you in court. Filing your petition without errors increases your odds of the court granting your request. Additionally, your lawyer will advise you on whether your case is eligible for an expungement under the California Prop. Realignment Act if your felony charges carried a prison sentence.
Your lawyer should first request the court to dismiss your plea of guilt. Your lawyer should also assist you enter a not-guilty plea upon withdrawal of the guilty plea. If the judge convicted you through a verdict, your lawyer should petition to set aside the judgment.
Next, the court schedules your petition hearing date. Your lawyer will represent you at the court hearing and prove why granting you a record expungement serves the interests of justice.
After approving your petition, the court will issue an order to expunge your criminal record, and the conviction will appear as if it never happened.
Applying For a California Misdemeanor Record Expungement
Remember to begin the record expungement process upon completing a misdemeanor sentence. Also, confirm you have satisfied your probation conditions since violating your court terms can lead to petition denial.
Your attorney can expedite your expungement process by requesting the court to grant an early probation termination. During the court hearing, your lawyer will persuade the judge that your good conduct and reform justify your request and terminating the probation serves the interests of justice. The judge will only grant the petition if you comply with your probation terms and have completed over a year of your misdemeanor probation sentence.
While you should meet your probation requirements before the court grants the expungement, you can still qualify if you violate them. The judge will schedule a court hearing to determine your eligibility. During the hearing, your lawyer will convince the judge to overlook the violation in the interests of justice. Ultimately, the court has the discretion to deny or grant your request. It will consider the following factors:
- Your performance while serving probation.
- The severity of the primary crime and conviction.
- Evidence proving you deserve the relief, like support from your family, community ties, and the opportunity to secure stable employment.
- Criminal history.
Simultaneously, applying for early termination of probation and requesting a California misdemeanor expungement is highly recommended.
In some cases, police officers can apprehend you for a crime, but the district attorney (D.A.) can dismiss the charges. In this case, your lawyer can request the sealing of records per California Penal Code Section 851 PC.
How to File a Court Petition Properly
When filing papers in a California court, the standard rules to follow include the following:
- Ensure you carry the original and at least two copies of the necessary documents. The court keeps the original. The court clerk stamps the copies of your documents and hands them back to you. Print extra copies of your records if you need more copies.
- On your paperwork, you should use the correct case number. During initial filing, you must be assigned a case number. If you are expunging many criminal counts, indicate the correct case numbers before filing papers.
- Different courts have different local rules. Local laws need special cover sheets or local forms. Ask the clerk at your local court about specific regulations in your case.
In many cases, mailing court papers is allowed. Contact the clerk to find out if you can file documents by mail. Remember, filing papers by mail slows the procedure and is less effective than physically. Doing it in person lets you see how it works and receive your documents immediately.
Find a Skilled Post-Conviction Attorney Near Me
Typically, people conduct a background check on you whenever you apply for school, an educational program, a loan, a professional license, or employment. You are more likely to lose out on the opportunity if your background check’s results depict you in a negative light. Expungement can go a long way to protecting your future and giving you a clean start. Retaining a skilled Sacramento post-conviction relief attorney can increase your chances of erasing your criminal records. Foos Gavin Law Firm believes everyone deserves a second chance and can guide you throughout your expungement process and file the relevant paperwork timely. We can also aggressively fight for your rights in court. Learn more about your options for expungement of your felony or misdemeanor conviction by calling our legal office at 916-779-3500.