Getting arrested or convicted is certainly a life-changer. Nevertheless, no one wishes to live with an unsavory criminal record. In as much as your reputation will certainly get tarnished in the event that you are convicted for an offence, you can still have your record expunged since most criminal offences can be expunged from government records.
Your criminal record can have a bearing on your personal life and career. Offences that many people consider to be insignificant such as hefty traffic tickets can significantly scar your record. This can make it difficult for you to advance your career or even qualify for a loan. Such a situation can be quite unfair, especially to first-time or one-off offenders. Expungement laws were designed to help you seal records of minor offences that you might have been arrested of convicted for in the past.
Criminal justice systems throughout the world are flawed to some extent since they sometimes fall victim to human error and external interference. The progressive nature of the law means that some offences that you may have committed in the past, won’t be considered as such in future. To carry criminal records that pertain to such minor offences is fallacious, and something that expungement seeks to rectify.
What Does Expungement Entail?
Expungement is basically the process of clearing a past offender’s criminal records. In most cases, the process involves first-time or prior offenders seeking to have their criminal history sealed. When you file for the expungement of your criminal record, it simply means that you are seeking to keep them out of the public eye. However, your record can still be unearthed and made available to sentencing juries and law enforcement agencies in case you are caught up in similar offences in future.
Most people who seek to have their past criminal convictions expunged are motivated by various factors. You can apply to have your record expunged if you failed to contest a criminal charge without realizing that it would affect your future career and reputation. California has one of the most progressive and friendly expungement laws, which can help you contest earlier criminal offences that currently act as impediment in life.
Which Records can be Expunged?
Not all criminal offences that you committed in the past can be expunged from your records. Nonetheless, most crimes and misdemeanors can be expunged from government records. Past offences that qualify for expungement include DUI arrests, traffic tickets, non-drug crimes, and other similar misdemeanors.
If you were involved in crime before the age of 18, you also qualify to have your juvenile records expunged. This law gives young offenders a new lease of life once they enter adulthood and attain the legal age of 18 years. Whatever delinquent acts that you may have committed during your juvenile years get sealed.
Which Records Cannot be Expunged?
Past convictions that cannot be expunged relate to serious offences such as murder, rape, first-degree misdemeanors, sexual battery, serious weapons charges, and pornography involving minors.
In case you were sentenced in a federal prison rather than a county prison for whatever crime you committed, it cannot also be expunged. Generally, lower-level offences and convictions are easier to expunge compared to serious felonies since they have a relatively lower degree of culpability and negative stigma.
Qualification for Expungement
According to the California Penal Code 1203.4 PC, your request for expungement can only be approved if you were convicted for a felony offence or misdemeanor and you satisfy the following conditions.
- You must show that you completed your sentence.
- You must also prove that you fulfilled the terms and conditions of your probation where applicable.
- You must not have been involved in any intervening offences.
- You do not have any pending criminal proceedings.
Many people think that due to legislative changes, certain convictions can be automatically expunged from government records. This isn’t the case because whatever violations or convictions that you might have had in the past cannot just fall off from your records. If you have a past traffic violation that is currently null, your insurance carrier cannot consider it. This doesn’t mean that the violation has been deleted from your record automatically. It is up to you to file for an expungement so that it is sealed.
There are crimes that require you to wait for ten years before you file for an expungement. These include common DUI offences especially if you had a prior DUI conviction. Crimes that must wait for at least five years to expunge include non-drug crimes, vehicular homicides, driving while suspended in violation, and failure to stop at an accident scene.
California’s penal code gives judges the power to reverse an expungement in the event that the petitioner repeats an offence. If the initial offence that you want expunged pertains to gun violence, you will be barred from applying for a gun permit or even becoming a law enforcement officer.
If you apply for any California state license, or you get contracted by the California Lottery Commission, you must also disclose your expunged conviction beforehand. This rule also comes into play in case you decide to run for public office. In the case of applying for licenses, some convictions warrant the automatic denial of the same regardless of whether your record was expunged or not.
The Impact of Criminal Records on an Expungement Motion
You are disqualified from applying for an expungement in the event that you have been charged and convicted of a misdemeanor in the past two years. In most cases, your recent or current criminal record will be considered a straight bar.
You can still navigate around subsequent criminal offences especially if they are unrelated with whatever you are seeking to have expunged. Even so, you must take note of the fact that the judge obviously won’t look lightly at the subsequent offences.
Limits of Expungement
There are a number of limits that must be observed when it comes to the expungement of criminal records. Most importantly, your criminal record can only be legally expunged in the state within which it was created. A state cannot oversee the expungement of records that originate from other states.
For instance, you cannot commit a crime in Nevada and seek to have it expunged in California since the criminal justice system in the two states differs. Likewise, the federal government doesn’t have the jurisdiction to order or oversee the expungement of criminal records at state level and vice versa.
Expungements vs. Pardons
Contrary to what many people think, expungement and pardon are two different things altogether. It is pertinent to take note of the fact that expungement doesn’t mean that you will be asking a magistrate/judge to declare that you were not guilty of a past offence. By seeking to have your record expunged, you are asking the magistrate/judge to simply seal your past offences.
On the other hand, a pardon is the reverse of a past conviction or sentencing. When you get pardoned, your trial and offence get nullified without the possibility of being penalized for the original crime. When your criminal record gets expunged, it doesn’t mean that your original sentencing will be nullified as it is the case with a pardon. Simply put, a pardon is akin to forgiveness or amnesty.
Many people use the terms “expungement” and “pardon” interchangeably owing to the fact that once your criminal record is sealed, it is as though you were never convicted of a criminal offence. The power to pardon an offender typically lies in the hands of political leaders such as the governor or the president.
Benefits of Expunging Your Record
Living with a past criminal conviction hovering above your head is akin to allowing your past to limit your future. An expungement seals your criminal record thus protecting your privacy. This allows you to fully take advantage of school, work, and other opportunities that would hitherto be unavailable to you. Here are the top benefits of expungements.
- Access to Job Opportunities. Anyone who has undertaken a job hand understands how difficult it is to get hired with a criminal record. In instances when individuals with criminal records land jobs, they are not usually the most well-paying. Rather than narrowing your job search down to those that do not require criminal background checks, you should consider sealing your records altogether. This will give you access to a wider pool of jobs.
- Education Opportunities. At the moment, it is impossible to gain admission into any prestigious graduate school if you have a felony or even a misdemeanor in your record. Sealing your record allows you to pursue all education opportunities that are available to you without worrying about getting locked out.
- Voting Rights. Needless to say, voting is a fundamental democratic right that the constitution accords you. Nonetheless, past slip-ups can deny you this right. Having your past felonies erased goes a long way in ensuring that you take part in the voting process during each electioneering period.
- State Licenses. To undertake any business in California, you need to have the requisite licenses issued by the state. You cannot qualify for some licenses if you have a criminal record. Expungement comes in handy when you are seeking professional licenses. Even so, the type of felony that you committed will determine your suitability to get the license even after the offence was expunged from records. This highlights why it is mandatory to disclose to the relevant licensing bodies whether you have had your record expunged or not.
- Credibility as a Court Witness. This is another great benefit of having your record expunged. In California, an expunged criminal record cannot be used to indict your credibility and suitability to testify as a witness in a court of law unless you are the defendant. If you have a criminal record, you cannot testify as a witness since the opposing side might bring it up in a bid to impeach your credibility. Once you have your record expunged, no one will question your credibility.
- Public Assistance. It is common knowledge in the public domain that you cannot qualify for taxpayer-funded public assistance programs such as food stamps if you are a convicted felon. However, it goes without saying that everyone is entitled to such assistance. Do not limit your chances of getting public assistance due to a past slip-up. A record expungement will help you clean your criminal record thus allowing you to quality for public assistance programs.
- Privacy. You definitely do not want anyone who can access the Internet, to learn about your past transgressions. Expungement puts all records of your past arrests and convictions out of public records. This goes a long way in safeguarding your privacy and reputation.
Myths and Misconceptions About Record Expungements
A lot of misinformation exists when it comes to what expungement really is. The following are three of the main misconceptions about expungement, which exist in the public domain.
- Cases You Won Get Automatically Expunged
The cases that you beat won’t get automatically expunged from your records. This also includes arrests that didn’t result in a conviction. It is only after you file an expungement request that your records will be sealed. Otherwise, they will be available to the public.
- Record Get Automatically Expunged after a Lengthily Period
California’s penal code doesn’t have a provision that allows your criminal record to be automatically sealed or expunged after a long period. Regardless of the number of years that will pass since you got convicted, your record will stand until you seek to have it expunged.
- Law Enforcement Agencies Cannot Review Your Expunged Record
When your record gets expunged, the agency that created that record will destroy it with the purpose of removing it from public databases that it maintains. As a result, the general public won’t be able to access your files. Nonetheless, law enforcement agencies will still be able to review your record especially when you commit related offences.
The Expungement Process
To request the sealing of your record, you must fill out the application form online. Besides filing the necessary paperwork with the court, you must also pay a stipulated fee. The cost of filing an expungement varies depending on the court in which your petition is submitted. Thereafter, the paperwork will be sent to a prosecutor for review so that your eligibility for expungement is verified.
Once the prosecutor determines that your records can be expunged, the paperwork will be sent back to you. Thereafter, you are required to attend hearings that will determine whether your records should be expunged or not. If your petition gets granted, your past criminal record will get expunged. This simply means that the court will note down the record to reflect an overturned conviction.
Why You Should Choose Our Record Expungement Attorney Near You
Due to the lengthily legal process that typifies the expungement of criminal records, it is always advisable to hire an expungement attorney. If you intend to file an expungement petition in Sherman Oaks or anywhere in California, you should get in touch with Record Expungement Attorney. This will not only increase the chances of your record getting expunged, but also give you an opportunity to work with some of the most competent expungement lawyers,
Record Expungement Attorney will file all the necessary petition documents on your behalf besides representing you during hearings. Besides this, the firm’s attorneys are dedicated towards guiding you through the typically time-consuming and complex process of filing the petition. The firm similarly handles all types of cases, and is dedicated to ensuring that its clients’ records get expunged in record time. If you are in need of an expungement attorney, visit the firm’s office on 30700 Russell Ranch Road, Suite 250, Westlake Village, California, 91362 or call 805-836-0422.