Some individuals may qualify to have their criminal records expunged in California. A criminal record can negatively affect your life in many ways. It can make it difficult to gain employment or to even be approved for an apartment rental. This leads many to wonder if they can get their criminal record expunged. California does allow for the expungement of criminal records in some cases and criminal defense lawyer can help.

What Is an Expungement?

California penal code 1203.4 PC allows criminal defendants to request that they withdraw a guilty plea or no contest, in return to have their case dismissed. An expungement removes the crime, or conviction, from your record entirely. It is as if you had never committed the crime, meaning that it can no longer affect your application or employment opportunities.

When your record is expunged, you no longer have to admit that you have a criminal record when filling out an application, whether it is for employment or a rental property. A criminal record can also make it difficult to carry a professional license, encouraging many to consider an expungement before applying or renewing.

It is important to note, however, that there are exclusions to California’s expungement eligibility and laws. While an expungement hides your criminal record from most employers, it is still accessible to some individuals, such as when applying for a position with a criminal justice department, or certain positions with the federal government.

How Does the California Expungement Process Work?

The process of expungement in California is referred to as a dismissal. The process varies, depending on whether or not you were convicted of the crime.

If you were not convicted of the crime, you may file for a case dismissal if the following are true:

  • The statute of limitations for the crime has passed, and you were not charged
  • The original case was dismissed
  • You were already acquitted of the charges
  • Your conviction was reversed

These requirements also mean that certain cases are not eligible for case dismissal in the state of California. This includes cases that are still pending or that are still within the state’s statute of limitations and additional charges can be brought within them. It also does not include cases without a statute of limitations, like murder. California also does not allow dismissal of cases that involve the intentional evasion of an arrest.

If you were convicted of the crime, then you must meet other eligibility requirements for a dismissal:

  • You were sentenced to probation and completed all requirements
  • The court agrees to dismiss the conviction because you have completed all, or most, of the requirements of the conviction
  • You completed a diversion program
  • Your conviction is possession of marijuana, at 28.5-grams or less

If your conviction required jail or prison time, then you will need to wait at least one year to file after you have fulfilled all your requirements. This timeline may increase for certain convictions, such as individuals who were convicted of a felony and spent time in a state prison. Generally, if you were sentenced to state prison, you are not eligible to have your case dismissed. However, if you were sentenced prior to October 2011, and your charges today would have been sentenced to county jail rather than state prison, then you may be eligible to file.

California does not allow for the dismissal of certain convicted crimes, including sex crimes against minors. Additionally, if you have current pending criminal charges, the state is unlikely to dismiss your criminal record. The successful completion of sentencing terms means all required jail or prison time, supervision including probation or parole, and the payment of all legal fines.

Will a Probation Violation Disqualify My Expungement?

While it is not common, it is not impossible to have your criminal record dismissed with a probation violation. In this case, it is crucial to work with a California expungement lawyer to explore your options.

We would need to request a special hearing and provide good evidence of the reason for the probation violation. The court will consider other factors when making their ruling, like the type of crime, the defendant’s overall willingness to follow probation orders, criminal history, and the available evidence.

What is a Declaration of Innocence?

A declaration of innocence requests that your criminal record be dismissed based on the fact that you were innocent of the purposed charges. Because a declaration of innocence requires that you prove your innocence, it is often beneficial to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

What is a Petition for Rehabilitation?

Even if you do not qualify for traditional relief methods, you may have the option to request a Certification of Rehabilitation and a governor’s pardoning. Once you have checked your eligibility and completed the required period of rehabilitation, you can file for case dismissal based on your rehabilitation.

How Do I Begin the Expungement Process in California?

You will need to begin a petition with the California state court to begin the expungement process. This needs to be done in person, through an attorney, or with a probation officer. It can be helpful and is often recommended to begin this process with a lawyer.

A California criminal defense lawyer knows the nuisances of criminal law and common defenses in the state. They can assist you with things like tracking down your criminal records, evaluating the details of your crime, determining if you are eligible, and then filing for expungement.

When you work with a criminal defense lawyer on your record expungement, you are more likely to have your request approved. Working with an expungement lawyer, you can easily navigate the expungement process, knowing what information to include, and where to submit your documentation.