Everybody makes a mistake at one point or another in their lives, but while many are forgiven and/or forgotten, some can haunt you for the rest of your life and impede you from living a normal life. Having a criminal record is one such never-ending black mark on your name and reputation. A criminal conviction on your record, no matter how petty, can make it difficult to find employment since many employers rarely forgive a criminal past.
It does not matter how hard you have worked to correct your mistakes, how much you have changed since committing your mistake, or what dreams you wish to fulfill. All that many in society see is your past mistake and the accompanying criminal record. That is why, with a tainted record in your name, finding a job, getting a professional license, getting a chance to enroll in a college or university of your choice, or being approved for a loan can all prove futile.
Fortunately, the state of California boasts of one of the best and gracious record expungement programs in the entire country. It is the state’s law principle to provide offenders with a second chance to redeem themselves and live a normal life.
However, despite the state’s progressive expungement program, having your record expunged does not mean that any or all criminal records will be erased. The process is simple and once it's done, it will put you in the exact similar position that you were in before. The benefits of expungement are vast and will definitely help you build a better life for yourself moving forward. However, it is paramount to have the right resources, knowledge, and expectations as you go into the process.
What a California Record Expungement Does
Below is what to expect from your expungement:
- The ‘guilty’ or ‘no contest’ plea you entered is withdrawn
- Your case is dismissed by the court, which is reflected in your record
- The Department of Justice is sent your expungement status
- Expungement restores your eligibility for student loans
- You are free to answer ‘No’ when asked by a potential employer if you have a conviction
- An expunged status can help you with future loan and housing applications
- Your conviction record is kept of the public record
- Helps with some state-issued job licenses and certificates
- Prevents the criminal record from having your credibility impeached during certain criminal proceedings
- Expungement helps you close the criminal chapter of your life and move on without fear, prejudice, and shame
Eligibility for Expungement
To be eligible for having your record expunged after being convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor crime, you must have:
- Not served a state prison sentence
- Obeyed all orders, regulations, directives, and rules of the court and jail you served time in
- Completed your parole or probation
- Fulfilled all the required terms of your sentencing, this includes paying all fines and victim restitution
- Not committed any other crime, be serving another sentence for another criminal offense, or be currently facing new criminal charges
This means that you are eligible for a record expungement if you were sentenced to serve time in a county jail and you meet all the eligibility requirements above. However, some special circumstances may also make you eligible for expungement, for example, if the court dismissed your probation before the lapse of the stipulated period.
On the other hand, as stated above, you are not eligible for expungement if you served time in a state prison and were convicted of either:
- Murder – PC 187
- Lewd or lascivious acts with a minor – PC 288
- Oral copulation with a minor – PC 288 (c)
- Sodomy with a minor – PC 286 (c)
- Child pornography – PC 311
- Forcible penetration of a sexual nature with a minor below 14 years of age – PC 289 (j)
- Continuous sexual abuse of a minor – PC 288.5
- Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor below 16 years of age committed by an offender over 21 years old – PC 261.5 (d)
- Any special infractions or misdemeanors under Vehicle Code Section 42001
- Failure to pull over or stop and submit to inspection for any unsafe condition that endangers human life and property – VC 42002.1
The Biggest Drawbacks of Expungements
- Expungement vs. Criminal Record Clearing
A successful expungement is one that allows the court to have your public record changed from a convicted status to showing a not guilty finding for the said offense for which you were convicted.
Unfortunately, if your records were maintained by private companies for the purposes of background checks, any changes made to your conviction status may not automatically reflect on such records, which means that background investigators like an employer can still get a hold of your now expunged conviction. The good news is that you can take legal action to have any records held by third-parties changed to reflect your new expunged status.
- The Expungement Process Can Have Multiple Steps
There is more to the record expungement process than simply filing forms with the court and waiting. Depending on the type of conviction you have; there are numerous steps needed to be taken to ensure successful completion, which can be complicated. Generally, misdemeanor crimes are easier to expunge compared to felony convictions because, for the latter, you first need to apply to the court to have a felony reduced to a misdemeanor before having it expunged. Before having your misdemeanor expunged, you must have finished your probation period and fulfilled all the requirements set by the court including paying fines and restitution monies.
- Expungement Does not Erase Your Criminal Record
Under California’s Penal Code 1203.4, a post-conviction relief does not automatically erase your criminal record from existence. Instead, it merely updates the record to show that the case has been dismissed, your probation terminated, and your ‘guilty’ or ‘no contest’ plea has been withdrawn and in its place replaced with a ‘not guilty’ plea.
Despite your record expungement, whoever carries out a background check on you will still see that you are an ex-convict, which in itself is a huge drawback for many defendants. This is because, despite the fact that you have been rehabilitated for your past mistakes, you still risk facing societal prejudice that can significantly limit your career aspirations and goals.
- Eligibility to Hold Some Elected and Public Offices
Despite a criminal record expungement, some convictions may still limit you from holding some elected and public offices. This is because it does not restore your eligibility and ability to hold these offices once you have been convicted of one of these crimes. What’s more, even if you are eligible to hold public or elected office, you may be prejudicially eliminated or excluded based purely on the basis of your criminal conviction, expungement notwithstanding.
- The Obligation to Furnish State Licensing Boards with Information Concerning Your Expunged Conviction
Despite your expunged criminal conviction, you are still obligated to disclose that you have a criminal record when asked if you have ever been convicted of a criminal offense during your application process for a state lottery contract or for a state license.
Note that some state agencies may not approve your application because they do not recognize expungements. This is especially common with licensing agencies for medical professionals and educators. However, this decision varies widely and depends on the agency in question. Therefore, for this reason, it is essential to directly contact the agency to determine whether or not they require you to divulge information regarding your expunged conviction.
However, despite this significant drawback of a criminal expungement, it is still true that an expungement will go a long way in helping you plan and apply for professional licenses in your field of interest. This is because many licensing boards are less likely to use your dismissed conviction against you.
- The Federal Government Doesn’t have to Honor a California Expungement
The federal government is not bound by law to honor an expungement that is granted in California. This means that when applying for any federal job, you must disclose all the details of your expunged crime. Even with an expungement, you may be considered ineligible for job opportunities that require a security clearance, irrespective of whether you are seeking direct employment from the federal government or a private contractor working with the federal government.
- An Expunged Conviction Can be Used to Enhance a Sentence for a Subsequent Conviction
Some California criminal convictions are referred to as ‘priorable offenses,’ which means that should you receive another future conviction of the same nature, the court can (or must in some cases) impose a harsher sentence due to the prior record. What’s more, repeat offenders are less likely to be given probation or sent to a diversion program.
Prior felonies are taken as strikes against you pursuant to the state’s Three Strikes Law. Although these felonies are eligible for expungement, they are still eligible to be used as a prior ‘strike.’ In this case, the prosecution will look at any past records you have before determining the charges to file against you, which the court will use to determine your sentence. Ergo, this is one of the biggest drawbacks of expungements since it does not prevent your expunged convictions from being considered to enhance your sentencing for any subsequent conviction.
One good example of priorable convictions is drunk driving (DUI). A first time DUI conviction is considered priorable for the next ten years. Thus, if you suffer another DUI before the lapse of the ten-year-period, the new conviction is treated as a second-time DUI. In this case, the punishment imposed is more severe even if your first conviction was expunged.
- You May Not Regain Your Right to Own a Firearm
It is illegal to use, own, or possess a firearm after your felony conviction as well as certain misdemeanor convictions according to California Penal Code 29800. If you lost your right to use, possess, or own a firearm after your conviction, an expungement does not restore your rights or get rid of the prohibition. You, however, have the option of seeking a Governor’s Pardon, a Certificate of Rehabilitation, or wait for the restriction period to expire, if applicable.
- You are Still Required to Register as a Sex Offender
If after your criminal conviction you are required to register with the state of California as a sex offender under its Penal Code 290, your expungement will not absolve you from this duty. This is a huge drawback if you face this burdensome requirement.
However, a possible relief from this legal obligation is filing a petition with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to get a Certificate of Rehabilitation that issued by the courts. If the certificate of rehabilitation is granted, it automatically becomes the California Governor’s Pardon. This certificate can relieve some convicts from the obligation to register as a sex offender.
- Expungement Does Not Protect You from Immigration Consequences
If you are not a United States citizen, having your criminal record expunged is not enough to protect you from immigration consequences accompanying a criminal conviction, which, in this case, could be deportation or inadmissibility. Immigration courts admit post-conviction relief only when your underlying conviction was lawfully invalid.
Sometimes, however, the expungement application process can help you when it comes to the immigration consequences of some convictions. For example, if you manage to have your felony reduced to a misdemeanor during your expungement process, it ceases to be an inadmissible crime and, thus, can no longer hinder you from obtaining immigration benefits such as a green card. Immigration issues are always handled by the federal government and can be quite complicated when mixed with the California criminal and expungement law. Therefore, it is best to hire an experienced record expungement attorney who can handle both legal areas to discuss your case.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services can still view an expunged or sealed record as a criminal conviction except in the case where the Governor’s Pardon or expungement was acquired on the grounds of factual innocence. There are several steps taken by the USCIS when reviewing the fitness and character of an immigrant from that of permanent residency to one of citizenship. USCIS must run a background check on you to see whether you have a past criminal conviction.
As an immigrant, if you have a past conviction that you successfully served time for, made compensation, and had your record expunged during your plea agreement, the conviction will still show up on your record and can cause you to be involved in deportation proceedings. Hence, working with an experienced and knowledgeable record expungement attorney is pertinent because then you will understand all the possible consequences and avoid them.
Contacting a Record Expungement Attorney Near Me
An expungement is an effective tool that can help you, a former convict, be relieved of the stigma and prejudice associated with your criminal conviction to get a fresh start on both your professional and personal levels. Note that you can only be granted expungement after satisfying all your court obligations. Moreover, when seeking to have your records expunged, it is best to avoid further criminal charges, especially during your application process.
The California criminal record services can be quite overwhelming without the help of a capable attorney. Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, it can take you several months to complete the expungement process.
Record Expungement Attorney is a professional expungement law firm that centers on serving its clients’ needs rather than concentrating on a mass-market mill. This is because we know that a botched expungement not only wastes your money and time but also has adverse effects on the quality of your life.
All our attorneys are experienced, highly skilled and knowledgeable in record clearing and expungement, and work hard to represent our clients to the best of their abilities. We offer expert case evaluation services before discussing possible remedies whether or not you are eligible for expungement.
When we take on your case, we make sure to handle every aspect of it on your behalf so that you do not have to. We have successfully represented numerous clients in and around the Sherman Oaks, Encino, and Valley Areas from our offices at 30700 Russell Ranch Road, Suite 250, Westlake Village, California, 91362. You can also call our record expungement attorney today on 805-836-0422, which is open 24/7/365.