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Six Facts About Expungement Law in California

Six Facts About Expungement Law in California

Under California law, people convicted of a crime may have the option of reopening their criminal proceedings to reverse the conviction to a dismissal in certain circumstances. Doing so will allow the person to truthfully state that they have not been convicted of a crime, except in some cases, like when applying for certain jobs.

Expungement vs. Sealing

True expungement is not an option under California law – people convicted of a crime in the state can only have their records sealed, which means that the criminal record is hidden from the public, but remains of their record. While only this limited option is available in the state, it is commonly referred to as expungement.

Under certain circumstances, like if the person whose record was sealed commits the same crime previously expunged from their record, the earlier decision to seal those records may be reversed and the person’s information will be made available to the public again. Under California law, felony convictions cannot be expunged from someone’s record. Per California Penal Code § 1203.4(a)(1):

"In any case in which a defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation, or has been discharged prior to the termination of the period of probation, or in any other case in which a court, in its discretion and the interests of justice, determines that a defendant should be granted the relief available under this section, the defendant shall, at any time after the termination of the period of probation, if he or she is not then serving a sentence for any offense, on probation for any offense, or charged with the commission of any offense, be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; or, if he or she has been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and, in either case, the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and except as noted below, he or she shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted, except as provided in Section 13555 of the Vehicle Code. The probationer shall be informed, in his or her probation papers, of this right and privilege and his or her right, if any, to petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon. The probationer may make the application and change of plea in person or by attorney, or by the probation officer authorized in writing. However, in any subsequent prosecution of the defendant for any other offense, the prior conviction may be pleaded and proved and shall have the same effect as if probation had not been granted or the accusation or information dismissed. The order shall state, and the probationer shall be informed, that the order does not relieve him or her of the obligation to disclose the conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery Commission."

California Penal Code § 1203.4 is the most commonly cited statue when expunging a criminal record in California. Other statutes that may apply include California Penal Code § 17(b), § 17(d)(2), § 1203.41, § 1203.43, and § 1203.49.

Am I Eligible For Expungement Under California Law?

In order to be eligible for expungement in California, you must meet certain criteria, including:

  • You cannot be currently charged with another criminal offense.
  • You must have satisfied the requirements of your sentence, including classes and community service.
  • You must have either completed your probation, or have obtained early termination of your probation after filing a petition.
  • You did not serve time in a state prison during your sentence.
  • You were convicted in a state court – people convicted of a federal crime cannot have their records expunged under California law.
  • You were convicted of a misdemeanor, or you were convicted of a wobbler that was reduced to a misdemeanor. Someone convicted of a felony cannot have their record expunged under California law.

You can find form to request expungement or a sealing of your record via the Criminal Courts website (PDF). While it is possible to complete this process without the help of an attorney, it is not encouraged. There are a number of other steps that must be completed correctly, and you may need to attend expungement hearings. You may also have additional options depending on your situation, including clemency or a pardon. Clemency will reduce your criminal penalties but not clear your criminal record, while a pardon will forgive your offense but not clear your criminal record.

At Premier Criminal Defense, LLC, our San Diego criminal defense lawyers have spent years working with clients throughout Southern California who are looking to have their criminal records expunged. If you find yourself in this situation, then hiring an experienced and knowledgeable law firm to represent you and help guide you through the legal process is among the most important steps you can take. Call our firm at (619) 304-9190 today to discuss your case over the phone, or fill out our online form to let us know about the details of your situation.

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