Being convicted of a crime is likely the worst time in a person’s life, and brings consequences that last long after the sentence is completed. A criminal conviction is a public record that can be accessed by anyone, including potential employers, landlords, licensing agencies, and professional organizations, by simply searching a database. This can lead to loss of job opportunities, places to live, and membership in organizations that can help a person advance their career. Criminal records are kept indefinitely, so a conviction will follow the person and affect his/her life, but there is a procedure that can relieve this burden – expungement. This process will take the conviction off a person’s record, and allow him/her to truthfully and legally tell an employer they have no criminal record. This is fairly easy process once it is determined a person qualifies, but it should be noted that, unlike other states, California does not completely erase the criminal conviction from the state record system. Instead, the case is reopened and is listed as “dismissed in the interests of justice.” While this may seem like a hollow victory, potential employers are not allowed to use this type of record against an applicant or even reference it in the interview. A new program offered earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development aims to help young adults 25 and under from Los Angeles get their criminal records expunged so they have greater job opportunities.
California law permits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony that did not serve time in state prison to petition for expungement. This means the sentence a person served consisted of county jail, probation, a fine, or any combination of these three. Further, the probation must be successfully completed, and the person cannot have pending criminal charges, be on probation for another criminal offense, or serving a sentence for a crime. Completing probations means the person:
- paid all fines and finished any community service or counseling requirements;
- attended all court appearances personally or by his/her attorney; and
- committed no new crimes while on probation.
However, even if probation was not successfully completed or a violation occurred, a court still has discretion to expunge a record based on the offender’s behavior while on probation, the seriousness of the offense, and overall criminal history.
It is important to note that certain crimes are not eligible for expungement regardless of the sentence imposed by the court. These principally relate to sexual offenses against children and driving infractions punishable by fines.
When Can Someone Apply?
A person can request an expungement as soon as probation is completed or he/she receives an early termination of probation. Unlike many other legal procedures, expunging a criminal record is a fairly quick process that usually takes one to two months.
While expungement can help with employment and obtaining professional licenses, there are certain things it cannot do, including:
- overturn a driver’s license suspension or revocation;
- restore gun rights;
- end a duty to register as a sexual offender; or
- eliminate the conviction from being used toward sentence enhancements under the three strikes law for any future criminal offenses.
Work with a Criminal Defense Attorney
Determining if your situation qualifies for expungement is not as straightforward as it may seem at first glance. Criminal attorneys have the ability to request a reduction in charges or for early termination of probation that will further reduce the long-term impact of the conviction. The Los Angeles law firm, Manshoory Law Group, APC, will guide you through the expungement process and help you get on the road to finding a better job. Contact us for a free consultation.