Having an old criminal conviction on your record can cause many problems. Can a criminal record be changed? Yes, a criminal record can be cleaned up through a process often called expungement. Let’s review this in four steps: first, what an expungement is; second, who is eligible; third, what expungements can do; and fourth, how you can get an expungement.
1. What is a California Expungement?
California has a process that allows many people to clean their criminals records under Penal Code section 1203.4. The process is often called an “expungement.” The law allows you to have your old criminal case reopened. Then you withdraw your plea so that it no longer shows “guilty” or “no contest.” Finally, if the judge grants your request, your charges are dismissed.
2. Who is Eligible?
You are generally eligible for an expungement if you:
- were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony,
- did not go to state prison,
- completed probation,
- and paid all fines and restitution.
This is just and overview of the eligibility requirements. There are nuances depending on the nature and age of the conviction.
How does Proposition 47 factor into the expungement process?
Proposition 47 (now Penal Code 1170.18) allows people convicted of convicted felonies to have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors. Eligible crimes include drug possession and small property offenses. Additionally, Penal Code section 17(b) provides a way for many convictions to be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. It can restore voting and gun rights. If possible, you want to reduce your old felony conviction to a misdemeanor and then do the expungement. This two-step process is a further measure of eliminating the appearance of the old felony.
3. What Will an Expungement Do for me?
Once a judge grants your expungement, you no longer have a conviction. As the code states: you are “released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted.” This is powerful language.
Further, since Labor Code section 432.7 came into effect on January 1, 2014, employers cannot ask someone applying for a job for information about a conviction that was expunged. Even if the employer finds out about your expunged conviction, it is a against the law to use the information as a factor in hiring or promoting.
4. How Can I get an Expungement?
The first step is to analyze your old case, specifically the conviction, sentencing, and completion of probation. There are a couple different sections for expungements depending on whether probation was ordered and if it has been completed. After determining the correct strategy for the expungement, you need to draft the documents and file them at court. The court will then review the documents. There may be a hearing as well. An attorney experienced in handling expungements will obtain all your case records, draft and file the necessary documents, and appear in court on your behalf.
If you have any questions or would like to inquire about obtaining an expungement, please contact the Virga Law Firm for a free consultation.