The consequences of a criminal conviction in California go beyond incarceration, fines, and probation. Even after serving your sentence, your conviction enters your criminal record. Since criminal convictions are open to public access, individuals who perform a background check on you can find it and use it against you in job applications, license applications, or personal life.

California law offers different forms of post-conviction relief to help you put your past mistakes behind you. Under California Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement is a court proceeding where the judge allows you to exchange your guilty or no contest verdict with not guilty before dismissing your case. Expunging your conviction allows you to answer no when asked about criminal convictions, and the conviction cannot be used against you.

The process of expunging your conviction can be long and tedious. This is because you must be eligible for post-conviction relief. Additionally, you must file a petition with the court and attend hearings. If you seek an expungement of your conviction, seeking legal guidance is critical.

Understand What Expungement Entails

The first step in filing your expungement under California Penal Code 1204.3 is to research and understand what post-conviction relief entails. Expunging your conviction is a favorable and easy way to avoid the disabilities of your criminal conviction. When you file a successful petition, you can put your past mistakes behind you and move on with your life.

There are several forms of post-conviction relief. Therefore, before filing your petition, you must understand other options to determine whether an expungement is the best option for you.

Seek Legal Representation

The process of expunging your conviction will involve obtaining and filing numerous court documents. Therefore, having a skilled lawyer to guide you through the process is critical. In addition to helping you obtain the necessary documents for a successful petition, your attorney can help you convince the court to accept your petition. Sometimes, the district attorney or prosecutor may oppose your expungement.

Your attorney can help you avoid such hurdles by informing the district attorney of your intention to seek an expungement and asking for their support.

Obtain Copies of your Criminal History

You can effectively examine your case by obtaining copies of your criminal history. This helps you understand the specifics of your conviction and serves as a guideline for filing your petition. The information you need about your conviction is in the documents you received after the conviction. You can obtain the records from your lawyer, probation officer, or parole officer. You can also obtain copies from the courthouse where your case was handled.

Determine your Eligibility

Not all individuals with a criminal conviction can have their criminal record expunged. You must meet the following eligibility criteria before filing your petition:

You have Completed your Probation

Probation is a common sentence for individuals found guilty of violating California law. Probation is imposed instead of incarceration, and it allows you to spend part of your sentence out of jail. A probation sentence is accompanied by several conditions that you must follow throughout the sentence.

Before you file for an expungement under PC 1203.4, you must have completed your probation. This means that you have served the entire probationary term. Misdemeanor probation lasts for up to three years, while felony probation lasts for a maximum of five years. In addition to completing the term, you must have followed through with all your probation conditions.

If you have been cited for probation violation for the offense you wish to expunge, you can request a special hearing where the court determines if you are a good candidate for expungement.

In this case, the court will decide on your case based on the following factors:

  • Your overall probation performance. Even when you violate your probation, you stand a chance at securing an expungement if your probation report shows a good overall performance.
  • The severity of your conviction and violation. Your expungement petition could be denied if you were convicted of a severe offense and your probation violation was serious.
  • Additional evidence shows your eligibility. With the guidance of your criminal lawyer, you can prove that you have meaningful employment and have been rehabilitated. This could convince the judge that you deserve the expungement despite your probation violation.

You are Not Facing Additional Criminal Charges

When you are convicted and sentenced to probation, the court orders that you avoid engaging in further criminal acts. Therefore, if you are facing charges or serving a sentence for another offense, you cannot be eligible to expunge your conviction under California PC 1203.4.

You are Not On Probation for Another Conviction

You cannot file a successful expungement if you are serving probation for another offense. However, you can petition the court to terminate the probation. You can request the judge for an early probation termination if you have served at least one year of misdemeanor probation and eighteen months of felony probation.

Before bringing your petition to court, your lawyer can contact the prosecution and explain why you are a good candidate for the early rumination. Before granting an early probation termination, the judge must confirm that you have fulfilled the following probation terms:

  • You have paid all your fines. Payment of court fines is a common probation condition in California. Before filing your petition, you should ensure that you pay the fines.
  • You have completed all court-ordered programs. Depending on the nature of your underlying offense, the court can order that you attend drug abuse, domestic violence, or anger management classes. Your probation could be terminated when you have completed these programs.
  • You have paid the victim restitution. If you committed an offense that caused injuries or financial loss to another person, the court may order you to pay restitution. The restitution amounts help the victim pay for treatment of their injuries or cover their losses. Before seeking an expungement, you must meet this requirement.
  • Whether or not you have satisfied other requirements of your probation imposed by the court. The specific probation conditions you will receive after your conviction will depend on the nature and severity of your conviction.

Obtain and Fill the Expungement Paperwork

Filing your expungement petition requires that you fill out numerous pieces of paperwork declaring your request to the court. The document you need to fill out when seeking an expungement in California is Form 1203. After downloading the document, you can check the boxes indicated.

If you have not completed your probation, you may need to fill out forms seeking an early probation termination. The firm for early probation termination can be found in the courthouse. Defendants with a felony conviction may need to petition for a reduction of the felony to a misdemeanor before proceeding with the expungement process.

This will be applicable when the felony conviction is a result of a wobbler charge. All the documents needed for your expungement should be filled out truthfully to avoid a denial of your petition.

File Your Petition

When you have completed all the paperwork necessary for expungement, you can present your petition to the court. The judge will assess your petition and send a response within five months. Expungement documents can be mailed or presented physically to the court clerk. When presenting the paperwork, you must pay the expungement fee, which may vary depending on the nature of the conviction you seek to expunge.

Filing your petition on time is critical. This is because the prosecution must be notified within fifteen days of the hearing. This gives them time to review the case and decide whether to support or oppose the petition. If you lack the necessary finances to pay for the process, you could seek financial assistance to pay for the filing fees.

Prepare for the Hearing

When the judge receives your petition under PC 1203.4, a hearing will be scheduled. The court will then inform the prosecution of your petition and give them a choice to support or oppose it. If the prosecution is against your expungement, they will make a detailed report indicating their reasoning behind the opposition. A skilled lawyer can help you prepare to respond to the prosecutors.

A court appearance for the expungement hearing is not mandatory. However, there are cases when the judge can mandate that you be present. Your attorney will inform you whether your presence is necessary. The judge makes the sole decision to expunge your record or deny your petition.

In addition to meeting the criteria and filing your petition on time, you can obtain an expungement if:

  • You can obtain and hold a meaningful job after your conviction.
  • You have no additional criminal conditions.
  • You have served your community service as imposed by the court.

Attend Your Expungement Hearing

Even when you are represented by an attorney, attending the expungement hearing can help convince the court of your intentions to move past your mistakes. At this hearing, your attorney will convince the judge that you have been rehabilitated and that expunging your conviction is the right step toward changing your life.

If you have obtained and retained employment, you can present evidence of the contact. Additionally, you can present testimony from your employer or other people who can attest to your character and the success of your rehabilitation.

Before granting your petition, the court will assess the arguments resented by the prosecution to oppose your petition. Additionally, they will want to ensure that expunging your record and keeping it clean is in the interests of justice. If your petition is successful, you can withdraw your guilty or no contest verdict. You will then enter the not guilty verdict before the conviction is dismissed.

You will enjoy the following benefits if the judge grants your expungement petition:

  • You can answer no when asked about your criminal convictions. After a successful expungement, you can answer no when asked about your prior convictions.
  • You cannot be discriminated against based on an expunged conviction. An expungement does not erase a conviction from your record. However, employers cannot use it against you.
  • You enjoy a clean slate. Putting your mistakes behind you can put you at ease, knowing that the disabilities of your conviction will no longer impact your life.

Re-File The Petition

An expungement is a critical legal tool for individuals seeking to improve their futures despite their past mistakes. However, the court does not accept all expungement petitions filed in California. If your expungement is denied, you must find out the exact reason for the denial and correct it before filing the petition.

Common reasons that could cause a denial of your petition include:

  • You do not meet the eligibility criteria. California has a strict eligibility criterion for individuals seeking to expunge their convictions. Therefore, if you do not meet the specific requirements, the court can deny the motion. Before refiling your case, you must ensure that it meets all requirements.
  • Wrong timing. Enough time must have elapsed between your most recent conviction and when you file for expungement. Filing a petition at the wrong time could cause its denial.
  • Your offense is ineligible. Although you can expunge misdemeanor and felony convictions, there are some exceptions. If you are charged with offenses like statutory rape or oral copulation by fear or force, your offense cannot be expunged. In this case, you may have to explore other post-conviction relief options.

Find a Reliable Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Expunging your conviction is a post-conviction relief sought by individuals with a criminal conviction in California. Obtaining the expungement protects you from all the disabilities of your criminal conviction. You can expunge a felony or a misdemeanor conviction if you meet the eligibility criteria. However, seeking an expungement is not a straightforward process. You must follow the right process.

The process of filing for an expungement may include determining your eligibility, obtaining relevant paperwork, and filing a court petition. The court will schedule a hearing where you will convince the judge why you deserve relief from the impact of your conviction. A mistake in filing your petition could result in a denial of an expungement. Therefore, you must hire and retain a skilled criminal defense attorney to guide you through the expungement process.

At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we understand the adverse effects of a criminal conviction on your personal and professional lives. If you seek an expungement of your criminal conviction in Sacramento, CA, you will benefit from our expert legal insight. Call us at 916-779-3500 to discuss the details of your case.