In California, expungement is a legal procedure that diminishes the effects of a criminal conviction. The consequences of a conviction for a criminal offense go beyond the jail sentence, fines, and probation. Having certain convictions in your record can significantly affect your personal and professional life. Fortunately, if you have been convicted for a felony or misdemeanor and you meet the sentencing and probation requirements, you may be eligible to expunge your record under Penal Code 1203.4.

If the court accepts your petition for expunging your record, the guilty plea in your case will be set aside. An expungement of your record helps relieve you of the disabilities that accompany a criminal conviction. However, not all individuals are eligible to expunge a criminal record, and you will need to undergo a complex legal process to obtain the relief. Therefore, seeking the help of a competent attorney from the Koenig Law Office is crucial. To ensure the best outcome, we offer legal guidance and representation for all our clients seeking an expungement in Bakersfield, CA.

Overview of Expungement in California

Under California Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement is a post-conviction relief that releases you from all disabilities and penalties accompanying a criminal conviction. Expunging your record is also beneficial in obtaining a professional license and protects you from discrimination based on your conviction. You can expunge a record for a felony or misdemeanor conviction provided you meet the sentencing and probation requirements.

However, not all individuals who have been convicted are eligible for this type of relief. An expungement does not come automatically, and you must file a petition with the court to obtain the relief. There are several details of your arrest, case, and conviction that could change the course of your expungement. Therefore, guidance from an attorney will help you understand your eligibility before filing the actual petition. The steps you can take to familiarize yourself with your case include:

Obtain Copies of your Criminal Records

Your criminal record contains all the information regarding your arrest and conviction. You can obtain these records from the court where you were convicted or from the probation department. Before the court allows you to access the documents, they may require that you pay $25. It is crucial to understand that it may take several weeks to receive the papers.

Find out if you meet the Eligibility Criteria for Expungement

You will be eligible to expunge your criminal record if:

  1. You are not facing criminal charges. Before you file a petition to expunge your criminal record in California, you must have completed your sentence, and you should not be facing any other charges. It is important to understand that facing criminal charges out of the State when you file for the petition can result in a denial.
  2. You did not deserve time in State prison. If you were sentenced to a prison sentence after your conviction or probation violation, you might not be eligible for an expungement. However, there is an exception for individuals who served a prison sentence that could have been completed in county jail.
  3. You have completed probation successfully. You are considered to have completed probation if you completed all your probation terms that may include payment of fines, restitution, and community service, among others. Also, you should not have committed any other offense while on probation.
  4. You faced charges and a conviction in state court. An expungement relief is only available for individuals who are tried and convicted in State prison. If you were charged and convicted in federal court, the court might deny your petition.
  5. You are not currently serving a sentence for a criminal conviction. Therefore, when you file a petition for an expungement under PC 1203.4, you should not be serving a sentence for another crime.

You can expunge a felony or a misdemeanor conviction. However, some offenses can never be expunged, including:

  • Sodomy where the victim is a minor.
  • Violation of PC 286(c) on lewd conduct with a child.
  • Oral copulation with a minor. Statuary rape laws prohibit sexual intercourse between individuals over twenty-one years and children under sixteen years.

Know the Details of Your Conviction

If you are seeking expungement for multiple criminal convictions, you must know the following details for each case:

  • Your case number.
  • The verdict for each case.
  • Details concerning any plea that you entered.
  • The details on sentencing, including jail time and probation periods.

Status of Probation

Completion of probation is one of the requirements you need to meet when filing a petition for expungement. If you are still serving probation, you must have it terminated before applying for expungement. The court will hold a hearing where the following factors are considered before termination of probation:

  • Your criminal history.
  • The seriousness of your criminal convictions.
  • Your ability to secure employment after the termination.
  • Your conduct during the time you have served on probation.
  • Your ties to the community.

Process of Expunging a Criminal Record

The expungement of your criminal record requires you to take the following steps:

Hire an Attorney

Seeking legal guidance when you are seeking to expunge your criminal record increases your chances of success. A knowledgeable attorney will guide you through the process and help you complete the requirements for your petition.

Complete the Necessary Paperwork

You should find out the forms that you need to fill before you begin the expungement process. If you are seeking to expunge your record, you must have completed your probation. If you have not met all the requirements of successful probation, you can file a motion of early termination. In case your petition for termination of probation is denied, you can file for dismissal with the help of your attorney. If you seek relief from a felony conviction, you can file a form Under PC 17(b) to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor. 

File the Petition

After completing the necessary paperwork, you can file your petition to expunge the record. Many people are often eager to obtain an expungement relief for their convictions. Therefore, your case may take up to five months. Ensuring that you meet all the requirements and submit your documents on time can help shorten the relief period.

The Expungement Hearing

The court holds expungement hearings before the judge without a jury. During the hearing, the judge considers your eligibility based on the nature of your charges and your probation status.

If the court accepts your petition, they will send you a signed order indicating the dismissal of your conviction. However, the record may still be accessible to the public until you seal it. If the judge denies the petition, you can inquire about the reasons for the denial, make necessary changes and file again after six months.

Benefits of Expunging your Record

There are numerous benefits that you accrue from expunging your criminal record under California Penal Code 1203.4, including:

  • An employer cannot discriminate against you based on your expunged convictions. The consequences of criminal convictions go beyond jail time and fines. Criminal records in California are accessible to the public and may show up on the background checks carried out by potential employers. When you expunge a criminal conviction, a potential employer cannot use it as a basis to deny you a job.
  • An expunged conviction will not be used to impeach your credibility as a witness. 
  • Expunging your conviction can help you avoid some of the immigration consequences like deportation.
  • After a conviction for a criminal offense in California, obtaining a professional license may be challenging. However, with an expunged record, it will be easier to obtain a State license.

Having your conviction expunged does not erase it. Therefore, there are limitations to what the expungement will not do. For example, if you are convicted for drunk driving, expunging your conviction does not overturn the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. Also, PC 1203.4 will not restore your gun rights.

When you face a conviction for a priorable offense, an expunged conviction may affect the sentencing for subsequent convictions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Expungements in California

The following are some frequently asked questions on Expungements in California:

  1. How long does the expungement process take?

Typically, an expungement case can last between ninety to one hundred and twenty days. However, this process may be longer depending on the nature of your conviction. Some factors that may impact the length of your expungement include the duration between your conviction and filing the petition. Also, whether your conviction was for a misdemeanor may affect the period of expungement.

Filing a petition to expunge your record as soon as you complete or receive termination of your probation may be beneficial in ensuring that the process takes less time.

  1. Do I need an attorney to expunge my record?

Probably yes. It is not mandatory to have attorney representation when you file a petition for expungement in California. However, the process of expunging your record can be complex when you do it on your own. Many people do not have the means to convince a judge, overcome the objections from the district attorney and avoid mistakes that can result in denial of the petition. Therefore, it is important to have a competent attorney by your side.

  1. Can I expunge a DUI conviction?

Yes. DUI is one of the most common offenses in California. In addition to the legal penalties and license suspension that accompany a conviction for this crime, a DUI conviction can turn your life upside down. Expunging your DUI conviction relieves you from the long-lasting repercussions of the conviction.

  1. Who can access my record after an expungement?

Expungement is a legal process that allows you relief from the consequences of your conviction. In California, a criminal record remains a public record even after an expungement. Therefore, the conviction will still appear on your record but cannot be used as a basis to deny you a job opportunity or a professional license. If you want to erase your record, you can file a petition to seal and destroy the record. 

Alternatives to Expunging your Conviction Record

The thought of obtaining relief for your conviction disabilities can be exciting. Unfortunately, not all individuals meet the criteria required to expunge a criminal record Under CPC 1203.4. If you are not eligible to expunge your record, you can take advantage of the following options to clear your record:

Sealing/Destroying your Arrest Record

If you were arrested and never convicted for a crime in California, you could seek to have your arrest record sealed and destroyed. When you seal your arrest record, it cannot show up on the background checks, and the court will erase all the information you provided during the arrest. Even when you do not face a conviction, an arrest record ruins your reputation and significantly impacts your life. Therefore sealing the record relieves these consequences. You have a right to seal your arrest record if:

  • You were arrested, but the prosecutor did not file charges against you.
  • You faced criminal charges but were not convicted.
  • You were arrested, went to trial, but the jury found you not guilty of the alleged crime.
  • You faced a conviction but were acquitted after an appeal.

You might not be eligible to seal an arrest record if you faced an arrest for murder or another crime without a statute of limitation. Also, if you evaded prosecution by fleeing or identity fraud, you cannot seal your record.

If you successfully seal an arrest record, it cannot show up on your background checks but cannot be used as a basis to deny you a job opportunity. If you seek to seal your arrest records, it would be wise to contact an attorney for guidance.

Obtain a Rehabilitation Certificate

Obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation of one of the alternative ways of clearing your criminal record. However, it is crucial to understand that obtaining the certificate of rehabilitation does not erase your criminal record. Instead, the rehabilitation certificate is a document indicating that you are an upstanding member of society. The eligibility criteria for obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation is as follows:

  • You haven’t served a jail or prison sentence since the end of your sentence.
  • You have been a resident of California for up to five years before applying for the certificate.
  • After release from custody, you have been rehabilitated for five years or more.
  • You were granted expungement for your conviction under CPC 290.
  • You are not under probation for a felony conviction. 

Obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation is a step towards the governor’s pardon, which is one of its most significant benefits. For most people obtaining rehabilitation, the certificate may be the only way to a pardon. Another benefit from obtaining CPC 4852 is that a professional body cannot use your record to deny you a license. Additionally, the certificate can remove your sex offender registration requirement.

Governor's Pardon

A pardon is a form of post-conviction relief the governor offers to individuals who show a high level of rehabilitation after a criminal conviction. If you are not eligible for an expungement of your criminal record, you can apply for a governor’s pardon, which relieves many of the consequences associated with your criminal record. Almost all individuals convicted for a crime in California can seek a governor’s pardon after seven to ten years of rehabilitation, depending on the nature of their conviction.

You can apply for a governor’s pardon for one or multiple crimes. However, individuals with a lengthy criminal record may find it challenging to obtain relief. Some of the benefits you receive for a gubernatorial pardon include:

  • When you receive a governor’s pardon, your rights to purchase and possess a firearm are restored.
  • You will be relieved from the duty to register as a sex offender in California if your petition for a governors’ pardon is granted.
  • The right to serve on a jury or act as a parole officer is restored.
  • When you receive a pardon from the governor, you cannot be automatically denied a state license.
  • Your right to be a credible witness in a case is restored with the gubernatorial pardon. 

However, even after a pardon, your criminal records can be discovered by an employer as they perform a background check.

Find a Bakersfield Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Facing an arrest and conviction for a crime in California can be very devastating. Some of the consequences that accompany criminal convictions are life-changing. Criminal records are always accessible to the public and will always show up in your background checks. Sometimes, you could miss out on a job opportunity or enter a good school because of your past convictions. 

You can seek relief from the consequences of your conviction by seeking an expungement under Penal Code 1203.4. Although the expungement will not erase your criminal record from the public eye, the convictions cannot be used against you by any means.

The process of expunging a criminal record can be challenging for an ordinary person to understand. Therefore, you will require the guidance of a competent attorney. If you or your loved one is looking to expunge or seal their criminal records in Bakersfield, CA, we invite you to contact Koenig Law firm for much-needed legal guidance. Call us today at 661-793-7222 to discuss more details of your case.