Being accused of an offense in California can be a life-altering experience. With hefty fines, possibly prison time, and many other court demands, your professional and personal credibility could suffer for long as these convictions linger on your file.
However, persons with criminal histories have the opportunity to erase their criminal records, thanks to provisions in California legislation. This process is known as expungement. As discussed further below, by filling out some papers and meeting with an experienced expungement attorney, you would be substantially on your path to achieving a clean record.
Understanding What Expungement Means
The public has access to the majority of criminal sentence records. Anyone who wishes to look for them can do so. Expunging a sentence will change your record by deleting or reducing several offenses. This implies that in California, you need not reveal your convictions when applying for a private-sector job.
An expungement, in general, removes the defendant's criminal history. It's as if it never existed in the first place. However, in California, a criminal conviction cannot be completely removed from the public. Instead, your lawsuit will be reopened, the guilty verdict or plea will be dropped, and the allegations will be removed as a result of the "expungement." The revised disposition will state that the case was "dropped for the benefit of Justice."
If you were wrongfully arrested but not convicted of the violation, your record could be sealed and removed. Sealing the criminal records will mean the destruction of booking photos, fingerprints, police and arrest records. You can have records sealed if you obtain a factual innocence certificate.
Appealing to have a criminal record sealed is virtually always disputed in court. In addition, the burden of proof is heavy. You should show that "no reasonable individual of ordinary care and judgment would accept the acquitted or arrested individual as guilty." As a result, you need to seek the advice of an attorney who can help you argue your lawsuit in the best light possible.
Certificate of Rehabilitation
California residents can apply for a certificate of rehabilitation, which is one option to seek a pardon. Instead of going straight to the Governor's office, you could go to Superior Court and file a petition. If you're granted the certificate, an application for a pardon from the Governor's office is automatically submitted.
Before filing, you should have lived in California for at least three years
The pardon and certificate will not remove the convictions or seal the criminal records
You could also have to admit to having a previous conviction on an employment application
However, the pardon and certificate will enable the defendant to participate on a jury. In addition, some sex defendants are exempt from registration
Individuals convicted of crimes can seek a direct amnesty if they are uable to get a rehabilitation certificate. A direct amnesty is most commonly used by persons who have been convicted for an offense in California but now reside outside of the state.
A pardon often does not mean that a criminal conviction is sealed or expunged. It doesn't allow the offender to respond that he or she has never been convicted of a crime. A pardon is an act of forgiveness that reinstates some of the accused's rights. Amnesties are likewise getting more difficult to come by.
For a defendant to seek a direct amnesty, the defendant should first get an application from the Office of the Governor. Since pardons are infrequently granted, you should seek the assistance of an experienced expungement attorney.
Analyze Your Case before Filing an Expungement
Exclusions under California PC 1203.4 restrict an individual's ability to use this procedure. Whether or not a defendant can seek expungement is largely determined by the specific facts of the case. It's helpful to know the specifics of your situation before you start the filing process. From this, you can start to see if expungement is a viable option for you. Considering not everybody is a legal specialist, your counsel can advise you on whether you can ask the courts to reexamine your matter. Here is how to analyze your case:
Obtain Copies of your Criminal History
To effectively examine your case, you should be aware of the specifics of your conviction. The relevant information should be enclosed in the court documents you received when you were convicted. If you have to order the documents, allow several weeks for their delivery.
Your lawyer, parole officer, or probation officer can also provide you with copies of your criminal convictions
You could also obtain the records from the courthouses where you were charged or by contacting the California Office of Attorney General's website
There will be a price, though you could be eligible for a waiver
See If You're Eligible
When you file for an expungement, there are three possibilities. First, if you match certain criteria, you can request to have your conviction overturned, which will be approved. Second, if you don't satisfy these requirements, the court has the authority to overturn your conviction. Third, some offenses are not eligible for expungement.
In general, you can get a felony or misdemeanor conviction expunged if you have finished your probationary period or were never assigned probation. If you're still on probation, you'll have to file a petition with the court to have it lifted. The decision to terminate is up to the courts.
If the court declines to dismiss your probation, you will not be able to get an expungement. On the other hand, if you were convicted of a felony offense and sentenced to state prison or placed under the supervision of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, you will not be eligible for a discharge. In this case, you should plead for amnesty or a certificate of rehabilitation. In addition to probation, the courts can order you to pay significant fines and reparations, attend mandatory counseling, and/or undertake community service.
Find Out If You Can Dismiss Probation
You could still be eligible to have an expungement if you've not completed probation. The courts will convene a hearing to decide if this is acceptable. The court will consider this throughout the hearing:
Your probationary period's performance
The gravity of the underlying offense
Your criminal background
Why do you believe you are deserving of this relief
Any other aspects they think are important
Check To See If Your Case Falls Under Any of the Exceptions
You will not be eligible for an expungement if you have done time in a California State Prison. Expungement is available only for individuals charged with an offense of misdemeanor or felony charge that could be charged as a misdemeanor. It also applies only to individuals who have been convicted to county jail, a fine, probation, or a combination of all three.
However, some violations cannot be expunged under any circumstance. These comprise statutory rape and any sex offenses involving a minor (that is sodomy, rape, and molestation.)
Identify Which Forms You Will Require
In California, the document you need to fill out to obtain an expungement is known as a PC 1203 form. There are blank documents that you can complete by checking certain boxes. In addition, you'll also need to complete a blank Order of Dismissal document.
If you've finished probation, you can have your misdemeanor offense expunged by filing a request to eliminate a misdemeanor offense. Even if you've not completed your probation, you can file a petition to terminate probation or an appeal for its discharge if the motion is denied. You can find the form at the local courthouse, but if not, you'll have to draft one for yourself.
In addition, you'll also file a Misdemeanor Dismissal Petition. Such felony reduction forms can be obtained at any courthouse
If you got a sentence to serve prison time but instead served in county jail for a felony offense, you can file under California's PC 1203.41
Process of Filing an Expungement
In California, the process of expunging criminal records involves the following steps:
Hire an Attorney If Possible
Even though you can defend yourself, you could have a greater chance of success if you hire a professional expungement lawyer. A public defender can be able to apply on your behalf. You could also consult the defense attorney from your initial trial and enquire whether he or she can file the applications for you.
If you're unable to obtain a public defender and don't wish to engage the counsel from your original trial, or if he or she is unreachable, hire a new attorney. You could get recommendations from family and friends or look up reviews of local expungement attorneys online. There are numerous different types of attorneys: ensure that the one you hire is a certified professional in criminal law with a California bar license.
Get and Complete the Forms
The appropriate forms can be downloaded from the court's website. Fill in all the blanks completely and correctly. Any documents or materials you intend to exhibit to the court should be attached. This documentation could contain proof of the program or completion of your rehabilitation. Letters of recommendation and documentation of community service accomplishment are also frequently included. They aren't necessary, but they could be beneficial.
Fill Out the Paperwork and Pay the Fees
Fill out the forms and submit them to the courts where the crime took place. Once you're done, you can take your completed paperwork and the filing fees to the clerk of the court's office. The filing cost varies depending on whether the defendant was charged for a felony or a misdemeanor and the place he or she was charged. Visit the court's website to find out how much it will cost in your location.
Get Ready For Your Hearing
The courts will schedule a hearing once you file your application. The decision on whether or not to approve your expungement will be determined by a judge. Before the hearing, it's advisable to contact a competent attorney on how best to get ready for the court.
The court will inform the prosecutor of your lawsuit before the hearing so that he or she can file arguments to the expungement application. The prosecutor's arguments will detail why they believe the expungement should be refused. You should be prepared to respond to any potential objections. Prepare copies of all papers and evidence relating to your lawsuit that you intend to present, and prepare a declaration for the court.
Attend the Hearing
Arrive on time, look presentable, and conduct yourself respectfully. Always remember to use the judge's formal title when addressing him or her, that is "your honor" or "judge." Based on the information and arguments given during the hearing, the judge will either approve or refuse the expungement. There are a few aspects that the ruling will take into account when making this judgment, such as:
Whether or not the state has a vested interest in keeping your criminal background clean
Whether or not you have been arrested or prosecuted for any more offenses
Any arguments advanced by the prosecution
Your actions since the incident. This incorporates your ability to retain a job and settle your debts and bills. It also covers any schooling or work experience you've had. Judges often take into account community involvement, such as volunteering or joining a church
Re-file if Necessary
If the court rejects your petition, find out what steps you should take to have your conviction erased. The court will explain why your request was rejected and what you can do to have the appeal granted. Make all the necessary revisions after listening to the suggestions made by the judge. After making the adjustments requested by the court, you can refile your expungement appeal six months after the first denial.
Find an Expungement Attorney Near Me
The expungement process in California appears to be straightforward, but you would be forced to fill out extra paperwork along the way. You could be at a disadvantage trying to get your life in order if you don't have a firsthand understanding of how criminal courts work.
We at the Record Expungement Attorney in Los Angeles are confident in our abilities to assist you since each case we take on receives skilled and personalized attention. Contact us at 424-286-1516 to book a free consultation if you have any queries regarding expungement or believe your record is qualified for this process.