If you had been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony but weren't sentenced to prison, you could be eligible to use a provision in the California penal code toget your charges dismissed. A dismissal (sometimes referred to as an "expungement") has several advantages and, when you are eligible, can assist you in securing the fresh start you need. This blog offers a step-by-step guide to establish if you're eligible as well as how you can get your felony charges expunged in California.

What is a Felony Expungement?

In California, expungement is a legal course of action that eliminates or lessens specific offenses. Accused persons charged with misdemeanors or felonies who satisfy the prison penalties and probation conditions can be qualified to have their criminal records expunged under California PC 1203.4. If the conviction is expunged, the case will be revisited, the guilty verdict or guilty judgment will be overruled, and your case will be discharged.

Expungement, as per California PC 1203.4, absolves the defendant of "all sanctions and limitations" imposed by the sentence. Even though a felony record in California cannot be completely removed from the public's view, expungement will change your file to read "judicial dismissal in the interests of justice."

When seeking employment in the private sector, you'll not be compelled to declare your conviction to the employer after you have had your records expunged. This can be highly beneficial in terms of securing a job. Also, discrimination against any employee or potential employee on the grounds of expunged records is illegal in California.

Expungement may make it easier for you to seek and obtain government jobs. Government companies, like private-sector employers, are mandated by law to treat candidates with expunged convictions as if they had never been convicted.

You could be able to join professional groups or obtain professional licensing with the help of expungement. You could also be able to prevent deportation or any other immigration-related repercussions.

Steps for Felony Expungement in California

Dismissal of felony records is not available to everybody who has been found guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony charge. Furthermore, there may be aspects of the case that can affect the conditions of the process of filing. Before you start the procedure of petitioning for a dismissal, you should familiarize yourself with the specifics of the case and evaluate if or not you believe you are entitled to have your felony record expunged Your lawyer can help you with the steps outlined below:

Request and Obtain Copies of Your Criminal Convictions

Every one of the essential details should have been provided in the court documents you obtained when you were convicted.

You can seek more copies of these records from your counsel, your probation or parole officer, or even the court in which you were sentenced. You can also get a copy of the records by going to the websites of the Office of Attorney General of California or the State Department of Justice.

You may be billed to get your records. The Department of Justice Criminal Record Review Unit levies a payment of $25, however, you could be eligible for a charge waiver when you provide your proof of income. Take note that requested records or papers could take some weeks to get to your mail.

Check to See If You Qualify for Expungement

If you satisfy the following conditions, you are highly probable to be eligible for an expungement of your records:

  • You have a misdemeanor or felony conviction

  • No criminal allegations are pending against you at the moment

  • You aren't incarcerated for a criminal conviction at the moment

  • You have not served any time in a state prison in the state

  • You have successfully served your probationary term or maybe received an early discharge of the probation

  • There are no pending court-ordered fines on your record

  • You have finished your term and fulfilled every one of its conditions (such as doing community service or any other program)

  • You were tried and found guilty in state court, but not federal court

  • It has been a minimum of one year after your sentencing if you didn't receive probation

You could still be entitled to expungement, but if you match the criteria mentioned below, the court has the authority to expunge the records:

  • You didn't satisfy every one of the probationary conditions, but you settled all compensation and you are presently not being accused or serving time for another crime

  • You had been charged with a misdemeanor for prostitution or solicitation and you completed your probationary term, or you can demonstrate that your charges were an outcome of human trafficking, and you were a victim of it

  • If you had been charged with a felony, incarcerated in county jail, and have served your term for at least two years

  • You served in the United States military and you suffered from mental health issues or any other traumas or injury issues as a function of your service

A felony charge should first be lowered to a misdemeanor charge before it can be expunged. Felony charges that are eligible for expungement would be those that could have in other respects been prosecuted as misdemeanors instead (these kinds of offenses are sometimes known as "wobbler" offenses) or offenses whose charges can be lowered.

If a defendant satisfies any of the conditions mentioned below, then he or she might not be entitled to have their criminal records expunged:

  • He or she was charged in federal court

  • He or she was sentenced to serve time in state prison

  • He or she was still serving his or her probation term and was not able to have the term terminated sooner

  • The defendant is currently facing charges, serving time, or he or she is on court-ordered probation for a further criminal offense

  • The defendant was charged with several sex offenses involving children

Charges for violations of certain criminal codes can jeopardize your eligibility for an expungement. Consult an attorney if you're still uncertain about your qualification.

Understand the Specifics of Your Convictions

When the defendant has several convictions, he or she must be aware of the following information for every one of them:

  • The case number (sometimes known as the "docket number")

  • If the court reached a verdict

  • If the defendant entered a plea deal as well as if the plea deal was a "guilty plea" or a "no contest"?

  • The specifics of the sentence: if the defendant was sentenced to prison, and if so, which one? When was he or she to be released from prison?

  • Parole, and when did the parole end?

Learn About the Status of Your Probation

You are eligible for expungement if you weren't on probation or if you have successfully finished your probation term. If you're still serving your probation term, you have to get it discharged before applying for expungement. You have to file a petition with the court to have the probation discharged.

The court has the authority to terminate probation. A court hearing will be conducted to look at the following concerns:

  • Your charges as well as the level of severity

  • Your criminal history

  • Your chances of getting work if the probation is discharged

  • Why you should have your probation canceled while considering your conduct during the probation period

  • The people who are being supported by you, your community ties, as well as any volunteer jobs you have previously taken part in

If you broke the conditions of your probationary term, you could still file for an expungement and appear in court for a hearing to assess whether the probation will be discharged.

Alternatives to Having the Felony Expunged

When your matter is not qualified for expungement or you want to erase your records in another way, you could be capable of taking advantage of the three additional alternatives indicated below.

Request that Your Records Be Sealed or Destroyed

By having your records sealed, any police statements, arrest documents, as well as other information relevant to your charges will be erased. If you had been unlawfully detained but not were found guilty of the offense, you had been detained but no criminal convictions were ever submitted, the charges against you were discharged in court, or you were exonerated by the jurors, you could be capable of having your felony records sealed.

If you want to seal your records from a juvenile legal case, you could be able to do so when the juvenile court's authority has been removed for a minimum of five years, you haven't been charged with any offenses that involve moral turpitude since you became an adult, and you have no civil lawsuit pending.

To have the criminal records sealed, you must first get a Certificate of Factual Innocence. Filing petitions for the record sealing are often challenged, therefore if you want to pursue this route, it is strongly advised that you go ahead with this with the counsel of a skilled attorney.

Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation

This certificate of rehabilitation is one way of obtaining a direct pardon. A direct pardon absolves you of any consequences related to your charges, along with the reinstatement of some privileges. A certificate of rehabilitation could be awarded seven years once you have been discharged from parole or probation, as opposed to the ten years you are required to seek for a direct pardon.

A petition seeking a certificate of rehabilitation is submitted in Superior Court instead of the office of the Governor. A certificate of rehabilitation doesn't seal the felony records or expunge a sentence from your records.

Even if you have a certificate of rehabilitation, you must still respond with "yes" to questions concerning previous convictions on employment forms. A certificate of rehabilitation could be capable of granting the following privileges or advantages:

  • The ability to serve as a juror

  • The ability to vote

  • The ability to own or carry a firearm

You might not have to register if you're a sex offender. If you satisfy the criteria mentioned below, you might be entitled to a certificate of rehabilitation:

  • You were charged with a felony and sentenced to a state prison

  • You were charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense that involved a sex crime as defined in California Penal Code 290 that has since been dismissed, as long as you haven't been jailed after the dismissal

  • You've lived in California for a minimum of 5 years

If you satisfy any criteria mentioned below, you will not be entitled to receive a certificate of rehabilitation:

  • You were given the death penalty

  • You've been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release

  • You serve in the military

Obtain a Direct Pardon from the Governor of California

As we have mentioned previously, a direct pardon absolves you of the consequences of your charges, as well as restoring some of your privileges. Since a certificate of rehabilitation results in a direct pardon, once granted, a direct pardon offers similar advantages as a certificate of rehabilitation does.

For defendants who aren't qualified to submit a certificate of rehabilitation, such as those who do not live in California anymore, obtaining a direct pardon is also an alternative. A direct pardon isn't the same as having your records sealed or expunged.

Before seeking a direct pardon, the applicants have to wait for ten years after having their parole or probation discharged.

You can get a felony expunged with the help of a record expungement attorney. A skilled expungement attorney can guide you through the procedure, help you with every step, and also defend you before the court.

Find a Los Angeles Record Expungement Attorney Near Me

If you've been charged with a crime and successfully served your sentence, you owe it to yourself to try to have the records of your conviction expunged. The advantages of pursuing record expungement outweigh the time and effort required to complete the process. There's nothing to lose. To have your record expunged, you may not even be required to appear before a judge, and the procedure can be completed in no time.

You can contact the Record Expungement Attorney in Los Angeles to explore the possibility of pursuing felony expungement today. Call us at 424-286-1516 to find out how you may have your criminal records expunged.