A criminal record in California can have dire consequences later in life. Your criminal record, whether it was an arrest or a conviction, could cost you your dream job or your ideal home. For example, landlords and employers commonly ask tenants and job applicants if they have a criminal record. An employer might not hire you, and a landlord may not rent to you if you have a criminal record. If this is your situation, you do not have to fret as you can have your arrest or conviction records expunged.

In California, the law under penal code 1203.4 allows you to withdraw a plea of no contest or guilty and simultaneously re-enter one that pleads not guilty. You can also have the court dismiss your case. If the court grants your expungement request, it will release you from the negative consequences of having a criminal record.

The Legal Definition of Expungement

California defines expungement under penal code 1203.4 as the legal procedure that diminishes or removes certain offenses. Under the law, you may be eligible to have the court expunge your records whether you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony offense after you have met your probation requirements and served your sentence.

When you have the records of your arrest and conviction expunged, the court will reopen your case and have your guilty verdict dismissed. An expungement will release you from all penalties you incur from a sentence. Although you may not have your criminal records entirely erased in California, an expungement will have them read as “dismissed in the interest of justice.” Once the court expunges your records in California, you can honestly say you do not have a criminal record when asked. For example, if the police had arrested you in the past and the court expunged your records when a potential employer asks you if you have a criminal history, you can honestly tell them no.

Expungement Eligibility

Misdemeanor Record Expungement Eligibility

Regarding expungement eligibility, your offense will be crucial in determining whether you can file a petition. For example, if you have a misdemeanor conviction, you can file an expungement petition provided:

  • You are not facing any current criminal charges.

  • You have completed your probation.

  • You have met all the terms and conditions for your conviction.

  • You are not serving time or probation for a different offense.

Felony Record Expungement Eligibility

You can request the court to have your felony records expunged for some offenses. However, the court can not expunge your records if your charges were for committing the following offenses:

  • Lewd acts with a minor under PC288.

  • Sodomy with a minor under PC 286(c).

  • Statutory rape under PC 261.5(d).

  • Oral copulation with a minor under PC 287(c).

  • Homicides.

  • Driving under the influence

  • Fraud charges.

  • Bribery.

Additionally, California will not expunge your records if you have served time in state prison, but the state can expunge your records if you spent time in county jail. Spending some time in state prison due to probation violations or for your sentence will make you ineligible for expungement. Under California's Proposition 47 Realignment Act, you can have an exception to this law if you served time in state prison instead of a county jail and if you committed the offense after 2011.

You can have your expungement attorney request an expungement, and the judge may rule in your favor and grant you an expungement if:

  • You have met all the terms and conditions for your sentencing, like completing your jail term, paying victim restitution, and fines.

  • You are not currently facing any criminal charges.

  • You are not on probation.

  • You are not serving time for another offense.

The Waiting Period for Misdemeanor Expungement

Under California law, most misdemeanor offenses will be sentenced to imprisonment that does not exceed one year in county jail, payment of $1,000 in fines, and misdemeanor probation. Misdemeanor offenses include theft, battery, domestic violence charges, and being drunk in public. Almost all misdemeanor offenses are eligible for expungement in California.

While filing for expungement for your misdemeanor records, the process may take a minimum of eight weeks and sometimes longer. The complexity of your case, the court's jurisdiction, and the age of your conviction will play a huge role in determining the duration of your expungement process.

One thing you should have at the back of your mind is that you will have to file a misdemeanor expungement petition, as the records will not be automatically expunged as most people think. It is your responsibility to petition for the expungement of your records. If you fail to do so, the records will be active, and someone performing a background check on you will see them decades later.

Sometimes if your misdemeanor conviction grants you probation, your lawyers can petition for an early release. You can seek advice from an experienced attorney to have their petition for an early release, allowing you to file for expungement when the court grants your petition.

Once you complete your probation, you can petition the court for expungement immediately. There is no waiting period for misdemeanor expungement where your conviction resulted in probation. However, if your conviction did not result in probation, you will have to wait for one year from the time of the entry of judgment before applying for the court to expunge your records. The best part is that almost all misdemeanor convictions result in probation, allowing you to file a petition for the court to expunge your records once you have completed your probation.

Wait period For a Felony Expungement

Regarding felony expungement, your sentencing will play a crucial role. For example, if your felony conviction led to county jail imprisonment, you can file a petition for expungement after the expiration of one year if your sentencing requires mandatory supervision. However, you can apply for an expungement after a waiting period of two years if your sentence did not require mandatory supervision.

Suppose your sentencing led to imprisonment in state prison, and your case could have resulted in county jail imprisonment under the Proposition 47 Realignment Act. In that case, you could apply for the expungement of your records two years after serving your sentence.

If your felony offense leads to state prison imprisonment, you can not apply for expungement. Still, you may request the state for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Governor's pardon under California PC 4852.01 and PC 4852.21, respectively. You should note that the governor's pardon and certificate of rehabilitation do not seal or erase your criminal records.

Tip: if your felony offense does not currently qualify for expungement, you should keep checking as these laws keep changing.

The Application Process For Felony Expungement

Once you have met all the conditions that make you eligible to file for a felony expungement, you can start the process by:

  • Filing out felony expungement forms that apply to your case.

  • Ensure you file these forms at the court where you had your case.

  • Pay the required court fees.

  • Appear before the court for your expungement hearing.

When the court convicts you of a wobbler offense as a felony, your attorney can request to have it reduced to a misdemeanor. In this case, the court will reduce your felony offense to a misdemeanor post-conviction. Once the court reduces your felony to a misdemeanor, you will appear to have committed a misdemeanor offense. With a misdemeanor offense, it will be easier to apply for expungement and greatly ease your mind while applying for employment.

You can make your petition:

  • In-person.

  • Have your attorney make it.

  • Have the probation officer authorize it in writing.

Although you can file for felony expungement, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a reputable law firm for assistance with the process. An attorney will advise you on how to file your petition and show you the specific law that applies to your case. By doing this, you will file an error-free petition, increasing your chances of having the court grant your request. If your felony sentencing resulted in imprisonment in state prison, your attorney would advise you whether you qualify under the Proposition 47 Realignment Act or not.

When you hire an attorney to help you with your petition, they will file a petition to have the court dismiss your guilty plea. Your attorney will help you enter a not guilty plea after withdrawing a guilty plea. If the court had convicted you by the verdict, your attorney would request that it set the verdict aside.

After this, the court will set your expungement hearing date. You do not necessarily have to attend the hearing, as your attorney can represent you. During this hearing, your attorney will plead your case by showing the court how to do justice by expunging your criminal record.

If the court grants your request:

  • It will allow you to withdraw your no contest or guilty plea and enter a not guilty plea.

  • It would set aside your verdict if you were convicted after entering a not guilty plea.

  • It will dismiss your charges and issue a court order ensuring your conviction ceases to exist in most cases.

The Application Process For Misdemeanor Expungement

When you decide to file for a misdemeanor expungement, you should consult an attorney who will determine if you are eligible or not. If you are eligible for misdemeanor expungement, they will file your petition promptly to ensure it is successful. You can also opt to file your petition yourself, as the misdemeanor expungement process is not complicated.

Remember to start the expungement process after completing your misdemeanor sentencing. Ensure that you have met all the conditions for your probation, as violating a condition can have the court deny your request.

When completing the terms of your probation, ensure that you have paid victim restitution in total and completed your community service. Suppose you are eagerly waiting to have your expungement early. In that case, you should complete your probation early and request an early probation termination from the court before embarking on the expungement process.

If you have violated the terms of your probation, you should have an attorney look into your case. Your attorney will request the court to overlook your violation if it is in the interest of justice. It would be advisable to apply for early termination of your probation and file an expungement petition at the same time. If the court convicted you of a misdemeanor offense by sentencing you to county jail, your attorney might help you petition the court to dismiss the charges.

Sometimes, law enforcement agents can arrest you for an offense, but the DA may dismiss your case. If this is your case, your attorney may apply to have your records sealed under California PC 851.

Restoration of Rights

If your felony conviction results in the loss of certain rights, like gun rights, licensing, and the like. An expungement will not restore your rights. On the other hand, most misdemeanor convictions do not result in the loss of rights.

Sex Registration

If the law convicts you of certain sexual-related felony offenses, the law may require you to register as a sexual offender. If the court grants you an expungement after reducing your felony conviction to a misdemeanor, it will not release you from registering as a sexual offender. In most cases, obtaining a Certificate of rehabilitation will relieve you from registering as a sexual offender if you have a misdemeanor sexual-related conviction.

Governor's Pardon

You can have a governor's pardon in California, while misdemeanor convictions do not have a governor's pardon. One advantage of obtaining a governor's pardon is that it will relieve you from your felony sentence and may help restore some of your rights.

Cost of Expungement

Although these figures may differ depending on the law firm you hire, the cost of filing for an expungement ranges from:

  • $695 for misdemeanor expungement.

  • $915 for felony expungement. This cost includes the reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor.

  • Early termination of probation and misdemeanor expungement $1,100.

You should note that the court charges a maximum of $150 to file your petition.

Contact an Experienced Expungement Attorney Near Me

Facing the California justice system can overwhelm you. You will need to put the past behind you and forge ahead. Your brush with the law should not limit your future if you have served your time. But this is not the case, as your criminal record can devastate your life. You may lose your job due to your criminal record. It would not matter if some of your mistakes were due to immaturity, lack of knowledge, or sheer recklessness.

After serving your time or something in your sentence, you should seek to have your criminal record expunged. Expungement will give you a clean slate to start over. You should seek the assistance of an experienced expungement attorney in Los Angeles. Our lawyers at Record Expungement Attorney have the necessary skills, and we will dedicate our time to ensure we represent and advise you accordingly. For a consultation, call us at 424-286-1516, and we will advise you accordingly.