One in every three Americans has a criminal record, which appears when routine background checks are undertaken. This is a clear indication that an arrest or conviction record can haunt you forever regardless of the seriousness of the offense that you committed in the first place. Applications for jobs, housing, and even schools will seek to establish whether you have a criminal record. If you have a not-so-good record, your education, housing, and job opportunities can get significantly limited. Luckily, you can easily solve this problem by having your record cleared.
California’s penal code guarantees past offenders a limited right to criminal record clearing. The main purpose of California’s expungement laws is to provide you a fresh start in the event that you have had convictions in the past. If you committed juvenile offenses, or you graduated successfully from a drug court, the law also gives you an avenue to clear your records. Nonetheless, your records can only be cleared if you are eligible. As stipulated in the California penal code, record clearing can also entail the removal of arrest records in case an arrest did not lead to a conviction.
A record clearing effectively gives you a second chance in life. Once your record gets cleared, you get relieved of various penalties and incapacities that are typically caused by a criminal action. Such incapacities include having to disclose a criminal record when making employment applications. Once a past misdemeanor or felony has been cleared, prospective employers are barred from using it when making hiring decisions. They cannot even ask you about it during job interviews.
Eligibility for Record Clearing
Several terms and conditions come into play as far as record clearing in California is concerned. Most significantly is that you must have completed your conviction and probation successfully before filing a record clearing petition. Besides this, you must not be currently under charges that have a criminal offense, and neither should you be serving a sentence for any criminal offense. If you are sent to a state prison due to a probation violation, you do not qualify for record clearing.
Which Types of Records Can Be Cleared?
Records that pertain to minor misdemeanors can be cleared. These mostly include petty crimes such as drunken and disorderly behavior, indecent public disposure, and theft. If you have successfully completed court ordered or drug court rehabilitation, you qualify to have your entire arrest and conviction record cleared. Besides this, individuals who are past victims of human trafficking and identity theft can also have certain arrests and convictions cleared from their records.
Which Types of Records Cannot Be Cleared?
Certain convictions cannot be cleared, especially if you served time in a California state prison. These convictions include sex offenses that were committed against minors such as sodomy with a child, statutory rape, oral copulation with a child, and lewd acts against minors. These offenses are captured in Penal Codes 286 and 288 of California’s law.
Most convictions that are related to motor vehicle offenses cannot also be cleared especially if they occurred in a municipal court. Generally, these are not categorized as criminal convictions. Instead, they are considered to be violations of California’s motor vehicle code. Motor vehicle-related offenses include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Typically, California’s expungement laws do not allow the clearing of records pertaining to out of state arrests and convictions. A California court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to clear records of arrests and convictions that occurred in another state.
Other past arrests and convictions that cannot be cleared include serious felonies such as assault with deadly weapons, kidnapping, human trafficking, luring or enticing, aggravated assault, spousal battery, criminal threats, terrorism, false swearing, perjury, and fraud. You can only seek to have these felonies reduced to misdemeanors rather than getting them cleared from your record.
Motions for Non-Disclosure
When your request for record clearing is granted, relevant government agencies are obligated by law to keep them private. Nonetheless, the law can allow some of the cleared records to be used in the future especially if you commit offenses that are similar to those that were cleared. This means that should you be involved in similar criminal proceedings, the cleared records will be used when deciding your eligibility for diversion programs, setting bail, authorization of pre-trial release, and the preparation of pre-sentence reports.
In addition, your cleared records can also be used in determining eligibility for parole in the event that you serve a prison sentence later on. If cleared records are the main subject of judicial proceedings or litigation, the law allows the records to be evaluated by appropriate parties.
Needless to say, most people who file petitions to have their record cleared do so with the intention of applying for jobs. However, certain exceptions come into play when you apply for a law enforcement job. Your cleared record can be used to disqualify you from jobs at local, county, or federal corrections departments, the police department, and courts. It is also mandatory for you to disclose your records when vying for public office in California. This includes disclosing all records that were cleared.
The Record Clearing Process
Clearing records of a past arrest or conviction is a lengthy process, which necessitates the need for you to hire an expungement attorney. This doesn’t mean that you cannot undertake the process on your own. You may choose to have your record cleared without the help of an attorney but nonetheless, it will certainly take more time. An attorney helps expedite the entire process thus saving you a lot of time and the typical hassle of dealing with court prosecutors.
For you to begin the process of cleaning your past criminal record, you need to fill out an application form that is available on California’s courts website. Here, you will be required to fill out all the details of your arrests and convictions. This highlights the significance of having in-depth information about your criminal record. Having all the relevant information about your record is important, more so if you are seeking to clear more than one conviction.
You should know what your case number is, the date of conviction, and even whether there was a verdict or if you entered a plea. You should also have information pertaining to whether or not you undertook probation, and amount of fine paid. Information about your past arrests and convictions can be obtained from various sources including court and arrest papers, and California’s State Department of Justice, Criminal Record Review Unit. You will be required to pay a fee of $25 to obtain your record from the latter.
Once you have information about your record, you should figure out your options in consultation with an expungement attorney. Keep in mind that you can seek to have your records sealed or your past felonies dismissed. The option that you will settle for is dependent on your eligibility. An expungement attorney will also help you figure out whether you qualify for a dismissal.
Once you have filled the relevant petition paperwork, you need to send it to a state prosecutor who will review it to ensure that you meet all the conditions for record clearing. If it is verified that you qualify for clearing, hearing dates will be set. The purpose of these hearings is to give you an opportunity to explain to a judge why your arrest and conviction records should be cleared.
In some cases, it isn’t necessary for you to appear in court personally for hearings. In case an appearance isn’t required, you only need to mail a return receipt card to the courthouse where your petition was filed. This needs to be done at least 1 week prior to the scheduled hearing. It is always good practice to ask your attorney to call the courthouse prior to the hearing date to verify that your petition is on the court’s calendar.
Serving the Record Clearing Order
If the courts grant your petition, the affected records will be cleared. This means that they won’t be available on public databases. Likewise, it will be unlawful for the cleared records to be used in determining your suitability for housing, education opportunities, or jobs unless stated otherwise.
Upon the acceptance of your request, you need to serve the clearing order to relevant government offices. You should mail a copy of the record clearing order to the state attorney general, the superintendent of state police, the county prosecutor, the court clerk or magistrate of the municipal court of your hearing was held there, and the police chief in whose jurisdiction the arrest or conviction occurred.
Objections to a Record Clearing Petition
As stated earlier, your petition can be objected if it doesn’t fulfill all the necessary conditions. The prosecutor or even the judge at the hearing, meet object to your application if you don’t meet all the requisite statutory requirements for a record clearing.
Besides this, your application can be declined if the availability of your record on government databases outweighs the need to have it cleared. If a problem exists in the application, you will be promptly notified so that necessary changes are made. More often than less, you will be given an opportunity to submit an amended application that has corrected or additional info.
Are There Limits to Criminal Record Clearing?
Generally, certain limits come into play as far as clearing past arrests and convictions is concerned. California’s expungement laws cannot be used to clear records of convictions and arrests that occurred in other states. Besides this the state doesn’t have the jurisdiction to oversee the clearing of records at federal levels. Likewise, the federal government cannot oversee the clearing of records in California.
Can Criminal Records Get Automatically Cleared?
Contrary to popular belief, past arrests and convictions do not get cleared from government records automatically. This includes cases that you won after an arrest, and arrests that didn’t lead to convictions. In any case, details of such arrests and convictions will still be available in your record and to the public until you file a clearing request.
Criminal records do not also get cleared after a long period as may people think. Regardless of the number of years that will pass after an arrest or conviction, information pertaining to these incidents will still be on your record. Even if legislative changes render the past conviction null and void, it will still exist in your record until you have it cleared.
Access to Cleared Records
Even if records of your past arrests and convictions get cleared, government agencies can still access them. Record clearing simply means that your past convictions and arrests cannot be used to deny you any opportunity unless stated otherwise. The agencies that oversaw your arrest and conviction will be legally obligated to remove them from all public databases that they maintain.
In as much as members of the public won’t have access to these records, courts and other law enforcement agencies will still be able to regularly review them. This is particularly the case if you are caught up in similar criminal offenses. In such cases, your petition can get revoked and your records made available once more.
How Beneficial is Record Clearing?
No one wants to live in the shadow of his/her past criminal convictions. Clearing your records helps you live your life like any other person besides pursuing all opportunities that come your way without any limitations. Record clearing allows you to apply for any job including those that require background checks. If your records are cleared, you won’t worry about your criminal past affecting your chances of getting employed. Therefore, your chances of landing lucrative and well-paying jobs increase.
Getting your records cleared also allows you to pursue learning at institutions that undertake background checks on prospective students. You won’t be locked out of an education opportunity due to a silly offense that you committed during your younger years. In addition, your voting rights get reinstated once your records are cleared. This allows you to exercise your democratic right of taking part in elections.
In court cases where you are required to act as a witness, your credibility can be challenged if you have a criminal record stemming from a past slip-up. By clearing your record, no one will have a valid reason to question your credibility to act as a witness before a court of law.
Clearing your record is fundamental to the protection of your privacy. No one wishes people to know about their unsavory pasts. Clearing records of past arrests and convictions is one of the ways you can use to achieve this. In addition, you also qualify for state public assistance programs if you do not have a criminal record. Typically, convicted felon often get locked out of taxpayer-funded assistance programs including the issuance of housing and food stamps.
California issues licenses to businesses operating within the state. You cannot be issued with some licenses in case you are a convicted felon. Clearing your record goes a long way in ensuring that you qualify for some licenses especially if you are a professional in any field of practice. Before business licenses are issued in California, applicants must disclose their criminal records to the concerned agencies. This highlights why it is important to get your records cleared.
Working with a Record Clearing Attorney Near You
It goes without saying that record clearing involves a lot of legal processes, which are generally lengthily. California courts allow citizens to file record clearing petitions on their own. Even so, working with in attorney comes in handy since he/she has the experience and expertise needed to ensure that your petition sails through. An attorney will draft the petition on your behalf besides helping you access your access records and any other information that you may need. Their legal advice will also make the entire process less burdensome.
If you need to have your record cleared in Sherman Oaks, CA and surrounding areas, do not hesitate to contact Record Expungement Attorney through 805-836-0422. You can also visit the firm’s office on 30700 Russell Ranch Road, Suite 250, Westlake Village, California, 91362 to set in motion the process of getting your records cleared. The firm is experienced in handling expungement cases and by hiring its attorneys, you increase the chances of winning your record clearing petition.