When a past criminal conviction or arrest record is holding you back, making it difficult to find gainful employment, get approved for enrollment at a college or grad school, or successfully apply for a professional license so you can launch a new career, what can be done about it?
In many cases, past convictions can be expunged from your record so that they can no longer legally be held against you in the vast majority of job application processes.
In other instances, arrest record clearing, juvenile record clearing, applying for a certificate of rehabilitation and a governor's pardon, or still other available legal processes may be more appropriate.
At Record Expungement Attorney, we can assess your situation legally, in regard to expungement and related record clearing actions, and determine which approach offers you the most benefits. We can then help you apply and guide you through the whole process, step by step, to a successful conclusion that will improve your record and help prevent background checks from hampering your future.
If you are interested in learning more about record expungement and related matters, do not hesitate to contact us 24/7 by calling 909-965-4033 for a free initial consultation. Or, feel free to meet with us in person at our office located at 473 E. Carnegie Drive Suite 200, in San Bernardino, California. We look forward to helping you put your past behind you!
WHAT IS RECORD EXPUNGEMENT IN CALIFORNIA?
California has longed allowed those with criminal conviction records to replace "conviction" on their record with "dismissal" via a process known as expungement.
Since in today's world, background checks are routinely run by potential employers and other organizations, it is critical to give yourself the best possible chance of competing for a job or of getting accepted for a professional license, college or university enrollment, apartment lease, or other important goal for which you must go through an application process.
A past criminal record can make it nearly impossible to advance your goals and succeed, but expungement greatly alleviates that situation.
Note that expungement does not "erase" a record but changes it from a conviction to a dismissal. It does not function in the same way as record clearing, which we discuss below. And not everyone is eligible for expungement. But it's well worthwhile to find out if you do qualify for expungement because, if you do, it offers numerous important benefits that can help you succeed going forward in life.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR CALIFORNIA RECORD EXPUNGEMENT?
Note everyone, nor every specific conviction on one's record, is automatically eligible to be expunged. It's true that California's expungement statutes are among the oldest in the nation and that they have recently been expanded to make expungement a realistic possibility for a larger number of people.
But, nonetheless, there are limitations on expungement. Here are the main eligibility requirements:
- You cannot have been convicted of additional offenses following the one you want expunged - but you can file to expunge multiple offenses at once in order to overcome this issue, in many cases.
- You can't file for expungement if you are currently charged with a new offense and facing a trial and/or ongoing criminal investigation for it.
- If the conviction is for the more extreme sex crime offenses, especially sex crimes against children, then expungement is disallowed.
- For murder and various of the most extreme violent crimes, expungement is barred.
- If you were charged in federal court for the crime OR if you spent time in state prison for it, it's not eligible to be expunged - UNLESS, you can show that said offense could have been punished with only county jail time if you had been convicted after Realignment, when the penalties of many California crimes were adjusted.
- If you are still serving probation for the offense to be expunged, it can't be expunged until you successfully finish probation. However, we at Record Expungement Attorney are often able to get probationary periods approved for early termination in order to immediately file for expungement and speed up the process.
You can get felonies, misdemeanors, or even mere infractions expunged. The process for expunging felonies is more difficult, but it can usually be accomplished by first petitioning for a reduction from a felony to misdemeanor and then proceeding with misdemeanor expungement.
You can only get a felony reduce if it was a wobbler offense, meaning a crime that could have been charged as either felony or misdemeanor.
It is most common for first time, nonviolent offenders to qualify for expungement, but Record Expungement Attorney is able to handle all expungement cases. We take on and win the more difficult cases that our competitors sometimes pass by, on a regular basis.
A few other factors need to be mentioned regarding who can get an expungement. First, you have to have been convicted - so if your record already shows "dismissed" or "acquitted," there's no need for an expungement, although arrest record clearing might be in order.
Also, if you plead "guilty" to the offense, it's more difficult (not impossible) to get the conviction expunged.
And finally, getting a certificate of rehabilitation or completing counseling, substance abuse, and other relevant programs may help convince the presiding judge you merit an expungement.
WHAT CAN EXPUNGEMENT DO, AND WHAT CAN IT NOT DO?
At Record Expungement Attorney, we know how to get all eligible convictions expunged, and in as little time as possible. But we also want our clients to go into the process with their eyes wide open, understanding what exactly they should and should not expect their expungement to accomplish.
Under California Penal Code Section 1203.4, there is a process set up by which numerous qualifying convictions can be expunged, so that they will be converted from convictions to dismissals. That means that a background check will not "come up empty" but will come up with "dismissal" rather than "convicted of."
Employers are not legally allowed to hold it against you if your case was dismissed (by expungement), but obviously, it would be hard to prove if they did, and some might. But, the large majority of employers are willing to hire someone whose offenses are sufficiently in the past and have been dealt with through the expungement process.
On most job application forms, you can legally say "no" when asked if ever convicted of a crime if your only past criminal convictions have been expunged. But be aware that for police jobs, California state lotto workers, certain state-issued professional licenses, and public official positions (elected or otherwise), you still have to reveal the conviction even if expunged.
Almost all penalties and disabilities arising out of a conviction are reversed by expungement. But there are a few exceptions, as we've seen. And it won't cancel the duty to register as a sex offender in most cases, automatically restore lost firearms rights, or prevent the expunged count from counting as a prior if you are convicted of another crime in the future.
But in practical terms, expungement can be said to at least remove the large majority of conviction related hindrances that most people face. So you shouldn't let the exceptions and limitations obscure the great benefits that an expungement can bring.
EARLY TERMINATION OF PROBATION
Ordinarily, you have to successfully complete your probationary term before you can qualify for an expungement under California law. And officially, that's a strict rule, but the fact is you can often apply for and receive early termination of probation to end probation and immediately qualify for and apply for expungement.
We at Record Expungement Attorney can apply for early termination of probation and expungement simultaneously to speed up the process, and we have a long track record of securing both petitions for our clients.
If you are not far enough into your probationary period, did not pay all fines and victim restitution judgments, did not attend your court dates, failed to comply with counseling and community service requirements, or committed any new crimes while on probation, you may well have your probation canceled and have to serve the original jail/prison term. But even if that doesn't happen, such circumstances could bar you from early termination of probation.
On the other hand, you don't necessarily have to have a "perfect" parole compliance record to get early termination. It's at the judge's discretion, and a few minor violations may not be enough to keep you from getting approved. A good lawyer will know how to present your early termination of parole well to the court at a special hearing and maximize the chances of approval.
Factors that will be taken into account at the hearing include:
- Overall performance during probation thus far.
- The severity of the offense you're on probation for.
- The existence of any other crimes on your police record.
- Your having strong community ties, a job, or an opportunity to get a new, better job.
- The need to support your family, to pay for tuition at a college you plan to apply for admission to, or other evidence you are seeking to better your conduct and your situation.
REALIGNMENT AND PROP 47
If you spent time in state prison for a conviction - whether immediately following or after violating your probation, you would not normally qualify for expungement under Penal Code Section 1203.4.
But, since "Realignment" changed the sentencing guidelines for many California crimes, there are a few exceptions to this general rule.
If you were convicted before Realignment, especially before Prop 47 was passed in 2011, AND you would have or could have been sentenced to county jail time instead of state prison time, had your conviction occurred after Realignment - you can still qualify for expungement under PC 1203.42.
However, two or more years must have gone by since you finished your sentence (including parole or probation), you cannot be still serving a sentence for another crime or charged with another crime currently, and you must petition for a PC 1203.42 exception.
Approval is not automatic, but if it can be persuasively argued that the "interest of justice" favors your being approved for expungement, the judge will permit it.
THE RECORD EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS
We at Record Expungement Attorney can handle the full expungement process for you from beginning to end. We understand the relevant laws down to the legal minutia, have deep experience in this and related practice areas, and will fight tirelessly in your behalf, always putting your best interests first.
Note that expungement does not occur automatically. You have to obtain and fill out correctly and completely all of the needful paperwork and then submit it to the proper court(s).
You can only apply for expungement if you qualify and if you've finished probation, are applying for early termination of probation, or are applying based on a Realignment exception under PC 1203.42 and have waited two years since you finished your sentence.
Once all paperwork has been submitted, the prosecuting agency or DA has the right to contest the expungement. In many cases, they won't; but it's not uncommon either so you want to be prepared to counter any contestation with strong arguments as to why your expungement ought to be granted.
There will be a special hearing to decide if your expungement is to be granted or not. This is at the judge's discretion, but a strong case presented by experienced lawyers can make a huge difference in the outcome. At Record Expungement Attorney, we have history of winning expungement hearings for our clients, even in "the tough cases."
If the judge grants expungement, you will be able to withdraw a "guilty" or "no contest" plea and enter a new plea of "not guilty." If you were convicted originally in spite of a "not guilty" plea, then the verdict will simply be "set aside."
At that point, the case is dismissed, and that will be reflected on your police report and on employer-run background checks.
If for any reason your petition for expungement is denied, the judge will give his or her reasons for denial (we can request the reasons at the hearing if they are not offered on the judge's own initiative). This will give a basis for making the necessary adjustments to successfully apply for expungement in the future.
The expungement process is heavily laden with paperwork that must be precisely done and must meet various deadlines all along the way. (For example, you have to notify the prosecution of the petition 15 or more days before the hearing is held.) And the hearing also requires well seasoned legal expertise. It's unwise to attempt an expungement process on one's own, for the legal requirements are complex and numerous, easily enough to cause a misstep to someone without prior experience - and a misstep can cause delay or even result in an expungement denial.
OTHER OPTIONS BESIDES EXPUNGEMENT TO IMPROVE YOUR RECORD
Not everyone qualifies for expungement, nor does expungement do everything relevant to improving a past criminal record. That's why those who don't meet expungement eligibility requirements (as well as those who do) should consider some of the other legal options available under California law.
ARREST RECORD SEALING
Record sealing is the next major record improvement action of note after expungement. It is possible to have convictions on your record sealed, but that's less likely and is sure to be challenged by prosecutors. More typically, you will seek to seal and destroy an adult arrest record.
This covers totally different ground than does expungement. Arrest record sealing takes an arrest off the public record so no one except law enforcement agencies (and attorneys under very limited circumstances) can even look at them.
The arrest will no longer come up on background checks. Eventually, the record of the arrest will be destroyed. And you do not have to say you were ever arrested for that crime on most employment applications.
After recent changes to California law in 2017, arrest record sealing is now a right in many instances. It is now much easier to accomplish - this change was made because too many were being permanently blackballed for arrests for offenses they were never charged with, never convicted of, or were even acquitted of.
You can get your arrest record sealed if:
- You were arrested but no charges was ever filed against you - provided the offense's statute of limitations has expired. However, some crimes have no statute of limitations and thus you could never seal the arrest record in such cases if you were never charged.
- The charge against you was dismissed or you were found "not guilty."
- You were convicted but that conviction was overthrown by an appeals court.
- You completed a Prop 36 diversion program or a PC 1000 deferred entry of judgment program.
JUVENILE RECORD SEALING
For juvenile arrests, it's often easier to get approved for record sealing.
If you are now an adult or if you've been out from under the juvenile court's jurisdiction for 5 or more years, you can file for juvenile record sealing - IF it's not a "crime of moral turptitude" or extremely heinous offense that's at issue and there's not current criminal charge you face nor civil litigation against you based on an incident committed while a minor.
If you are granted arrest record sealing by the judge for juvenile arrests, the record will be sealed and then destroyed after three years have passed.
CERTIFICATE OF DETAINMENT
If you are applying for a professional license issued by the state of California, you won't be able to seal your arrest record so that the board or agency can't review it.
However, in many cases, you may be able to successfully petition the arresting agency to issue you a certificate of detainment which states that you were only "detained" and not technically "arrested." This fine distinction can make a big difference legally and in getting approved for a license.
CERTIFICATE OF REHABILITATION
A certificate of rehabilitation has the force of a court order and declares you to be now an honest, upstanding person of good character who can be trusted to obey the law. If you get a certificate of rehabilitation, you will automatically be entered to apply for a governor's pardon.
And prospective employers and agencies reviewing applications for professional licenses will also be informed of your rehabilitated status. This can have a big impact on getting a new job or starting a new career.
In most cases you have to wait 7 to 10 years after serving your sentence before applying for a governor's pardon. With a certificate of rehabilitation, it can happen in 7 years instead of the 10, but it can also depend on the nature of the offense.
If you can get a certificate of factual innocence, however, you can apply right away for a pardon.
While governor's pardons aren't the most common way to clear up a record, there are many who do in fact get them - and it is an extremely effective way of putting the past behind you!
WHY CHOOSE US?
When you are looking for a way to clean up your police record as much as possible and as fast as possible, where do you turn?
Record Expungement Attorney specializes in those very practice areas, and we have a long track record of success at helping our clients achieve their goals in this regard.
We have had a local presence in San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, and all of Southern California for many years and have steadily built a solid reputation by serving the best interests of local residents.
Our legal team possesses deep and diverse legal expertise that fully cover all aspects of California expungements, adult record clearing, juvenile record clearing, certificates of rehabilitation, seeking a governor's pardon, and more. We give you second to none representation and paperwork/process handling across the full gamut of practice areas related to cleaning up a past police record.
But beyond the legal nuts and bolts, we offer you a deep-seated concern for the welfare of each and every client that motivates us day by day. We always put your best interests first, communicate with you "early and often," and treat you with respect and dignity. All of our conversation with you are kept 100% confidential.
We at Record Expungement Attorney are fully licensed, bonded, and insured. Our staff all have high academic achievement in the relevant areas and are well seasoned professionals.
We are not a law mill. We give you personalized attention and take the time to customize our approach to each case, as opposed to the "cookie cutter" methods of many of our competitors.
We also keep our phone lines open 24/7, 365 days a year to take your call for help. And we offer affordable, competitive, upfront-only fees and rates.
CONTACT US TODAY FOR IMMEDIATE HELP!
At Record Expungement Attorney, we can assist you in getting your past California criminal conviction(s) expunged. We can also assist you in arrest record clearing, getting a certificate of rehabilitation, applying for a governor's pardon, and all other similar processes under California law that can help you "clean up" your police record.
For a free, no obligation consultation, contact us anytime 24/7/365 by calling 909-965-4033.
And for an in person consultation, meet with us at our office location at 473 E. Carnegie Drive Suite 200, in San Bernardino, California.