What is Expungement in California?
Being convicted of a crime, and serving out a punishment, unfortunately, is oftentimes not the end of an individual’s ordeal. 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. Having a criminal conviction on one’s record can mean a much tougher experience in obtaining a job, receiving a business license, or applying for credit, as well as any number of other barriers that society has deemed necessary.
Fortunately, California provides a procedure by which certain individuals convicted of a crime can have their records expunged. 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 a 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. As the vast majority of individuals will need to undertake this procedure only once, it is especially important to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist in the expungement process, as the process is complex, and the failure to adhere to all nuances could mean denial of a petition.
However, although California has recently expanded the offenses which are eligible for expungement, as well as streamlining the process, it still is time-consuming. As a recent article illustrates, a group advocating for those who are able to have their records expunged has developed an algorithm to assist in doing just that.
What Crimes Are Eligible for Expungement?
As mentioned above, only certain crimes are eligible for expungement under the current procedure. Specifically, expungement is not available for the following crimes:
- Sodomy with a child;
- Committing a lewd or lascivious act with a child;
- Oral copulation of a child;
- Statutory rape, which prohibits sexual intercourse between persons who are 21 years and older and persons younger than 16;
- Any offense involving child pornography;
- Forcible penetration with a foreign object; and
Additionally, if an individual served time in State prison, that individual would only be eligible for expungement if the underlying crime is one that would qualify for a sentence to serve time in a county prison at the time of filing the petition for expungement.
Who Is Eligible To Have Their Records Expunged In California?
Expungement isn’t available to everyone, only certain individuals can receive this benefit. If you are unsure whether or not you qualify for having your record expunged, talking to a Southern California criminal defense lawyer who can examine your criminal history is a good place to start.
These legal professionals are going to check your history against the following measures:
- Your conviction occurred in a state court, not a federal court
- You did not go to state prison
- You did go to state prison when you could have served your time in county jail if your crimes occurred after Realignment in Proposition 47 was passed
- You meet the requirements to be eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation and expungement
- You finished your probation or you were able to have your probation terminated early via a petition
- You successfully completed all of your conviction requirements such as classes or community service
- You are not facing any other charges for a criminal defense
Who May Not Have Their Record Expunged In California?
Those who have any of the following, are not able to have their records expunged:
- You are looking at charges for a criminal offense
- You are currently on probation for a criminal offense
- You are currently serving a sentence for a criminal offense
- You are convicted of certain sex crimes against children
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.
How Does Expungement Work?
To have a record expunged, an individual who meets the above eligibility requirements, as well as the above crime requirements, may petition the State for expungement. In doing so, he/she will need to acquire a copy of his/her criminal record, and submit it for review by the ruling judge.
If all the required elements are met, then, thanks to the new process for expungement, the judge is given no discretion on whether to grant the request and, instead, is required by statute to expunge the individual’s record.
Accordingly, speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney before beginning the expungement process will serve to ascertain whether a case is eligible for expungement.
What Happens After Your Record is Expunged in California?
There are several benefits to expungement but it doesn’t alleviate all issues that are connected with a criminal conviction in California.
This is what expungement will do:
- Adjust the court record to indicate that your case was dismissed.
- Provide more flexibility to answer no regarding your conviction when you apply to most jobs. You should answer yes regarding your conviction when you are pursuing a government job. The same is true for professions where it is necessary to have a license, certificate, permit, or any level of security clearance but you can also disclose that you had your conviction expunged.
- Unless you are facing trial for another offense, you will be able to testify in court as a witness.
- Potentially allow you to get a pardon if your expungement was for a felony.
An expungement in California will not do the following:
- Your criminal history will still show your conviction and expungement that the state of California, as well as the FBI, can see.
- If your conviction resulted in making it unlawful to have a firearm, expungement doesn’t reinstate that right.
- You will still have to register as a sex offender if you were convicted of sex crimes.
- If you require a government-issued license you have to indicate that you were convicted of a crime.
- Seal your case from the public.
- If you are arrested for another crime, your expunged crime can still be used to increase your sentencing.
- Licensing agencies can still revoke or deny you a professional license.
- The Immigration and Naturalization Service may still consider your conviction when determining your status.
How To Get Help With Expungement In California?
Despite its limitations, individuals who qualify for expungement can improve their quality of life and reclaim their future for the better after a criminal conviction. The Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at the Manshoory Law Group can provide you with the legal guidance you need to learn about how expungement works and if your case is applicable.