Domestic violence charges carry severe consequences, and you would be subject to harsh punishments if found guilty. If you've been found guilty of a domestic violence crime, you could be interested in learning if you can legally expunge your criminal record. While there is the possibility of having certain convictions expunged, domestic violence can be extremely challenging. Therefore, it's important to grasp the fundamentals of expungement when it comes to criminal convictions.

A Brief Overview of Domestic Violence

As defined by the law in most U.S. states, domestic violence is an offense against an individual intimately attached through marriage, dating, or domestic partnership, to name a few or closely linked by marriage or blood to the accused person. A conviction for domestic violence on your record could make it challenging to get a job. Since domestic violence is often treated as a minor offense, most jurisdictions will allow a conviction or arrest for the offense to be erased.

Understanding What Expungement Means

The term "expunge" refers to removing or erasing a criminal record. The expungement process allows a person's criminal history to be erased from public view. Expungement doesn't absolve any guilt, and it isn't a pardon. If you're eligible, you can apply for an expungement to have your record hidden from public view.

Depending on the circumstances, the court would assess the case and decide whether to grant the expungement. Normally, a record that has been expunged is not accessible to the general public, although law enforcement could still have access to it. Having your record expunged can assist you in numerous ways, including applying for housing or a loan, enrolling in school, or finding work.

Domestic Violence and Expungement

Most misdemeanor charges can be cleared from your record.  However, if you violate your probation terms or commit a repeat offense, the magistrate will reject the request for expungement. The court will not approve your expungement request if you’re currently serving a probation sentence for a different offense. Additionally, some counts of domestic violence are not eligible for expungement.

For example, if the original charge were considered a felony, it would have to be lessened to a misdemeanor first. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will examine the specifics of your case and offer you legal advice.

Sealing a Conviction Record

Sealing a conviction and erasing a criminal record sound similar, but they are not the same. Generally, when a record is sealed, it cannot be viewed by the public. The record still exists, thus it doesn't imply that it has been lost. Usually, the primary objective of seeking expungement is to seal your criminal record to ensure that it won't interfere with your ability to apply for a job, rent an apartment, acquire a loan, or in any other situation where it would be relevant. Therefore, it's in your best interest to seek expungement as soon as you can.

How to Expunge a Domestic Violence Conviction Record

The first thing most individuals who have been found guilty of domestic violence (or any offense) want to know is how they will cope with the stigma of their new identity. If you've been found guilty of domestic violence, then you probably have asked yourself this question. The answer varies on several factors, but the core issue is the location of the incident.

The laws of that state will determine the eligibility and timing of your record expungement. Filing an application for expungement on your own could be challenging, particularly regarding the different documentation and court hearings involved. Therefore, before you start navigating the procedures, you need to find a reputable expungement lawyer.

The following is a breakdown of the steps necessary to apply for a California domestic violence expungement:

  • Engage a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Filing for expungement could be difficult without the assistance of a lawyer who is well-versed in the numerous fields of criminal law. A lawyer can assist you in determining your eligibility for expungement and gathering the documents required to start the petition. As usual, it is important to speak with a lawyer you can rely on to help you through the expungement process.

  • Gathering Data and Completing Forms

In most legal cases, a lot of paperwork needs to be done before the case can progress forward. Expungement petitions are the same, and numerous different documents should be submitted. Your lawyer can assist you in identifying the paperwork required for your situation and can make sure you submit everything on time to advance your expungement. Be ready to share basic details about yourself and more information about your criminal offenses.

  • Submit an Expungement Request

Once you have the necessary documentation, you should file an application for expungement with the relevant court. Even though the rules vary by jurisdiction, some courts require that expungement paperwork be submitted in person rather than by mail or electronically. Your lawyer can give you advice on the proper steps to take. From here, it could take the court anywhere between 3 and 5 months to give feedback on your petition. When you receive feedback from the court, you'll be given a hearing date for expungement.

  • Expungement Hearing

In most cases, you will be required to be present in court for your hearing. Sometimes you don't have to be there. Your lawyer can coordinate with the judge and the prosecutor to run the hearing without you. Given that there will be no jury at the court, the judge would decide whether to approve the expungement.

  • Expungement Approved or Rejected

If expungement is approved, your attorney will seal the case and any related records. Once the matter has been closed, you are free to say that you were never charged or convicted for that offense. If the court rejected your request to have your record expunged, you would wait another 6 months before filing another petition.

Domestic Violence Cases That Qualify for Expungement

Domestic violence convictions that only amount to a misdemeanor can be sealed. If you have no record of incarceration in a state facility, you could also be eligible for expungement.

Any type of felony charge is ineligible for expungement. However, you still have an option if you were found guilty of felony domestic violence. California enacted Proposition 47 in 2014, allowing some nonviolent felonies to be lowered to misdemeanors.

Your punishment in its entirety should have been served before you can begin working towards a reduction, and that includes but is not limited to the following:

  • There are no pending fines that need to be paid
  • Finished serving your sentence in jail
  • Finished serving your probation term

If you satisfy the requirements outlined above, you can start the process of having your charges lessened to a misdemeanor. If you are successful, you will have the option to pursue record expungement.

Why Get an Expungement for Domestic Violence Charges?

The majority of employers run background checks. Employers are naturally cautious about potential recruits with a criminal record that includes the term "violent." Most employers don't consider the specifics of a domestic abuse case. Issuing threats or using harassing behavior can lead to an arrest on domestic violence charges.

In many cases of this nature, it comes down to one party's word against the other, and the supposed victim could bear some responsibility for the act. In some cases, police officers can decide to detain a single party in a domestic dispute even when the purported victim was just as much a part of the altercation as the individual detained.

Finding work should be considerably easier when the record has been expunged. The most common reason individuals seek to have their domestic abuse charges expunged is to prevent future employers from learning about the conviction or legal proceedings.

Additionally, it can enable you to truthfully respond "no" to inquiries concerning a prior criminal history. Record expungement has many advantages.

While the laws governing expungement vary from state to state, they are all generally intended to help people reintegrate into society. Finding work, a place to live, and educational prospects, including student loans, work-study, or grants, will be much easier.

Benefits of Record Expungement

Domestic violence convictions can have serious ramifications, which is why seeking expungement is so important. Background checks won't reveal expunged records, which could benefit you in the following ways:

  • Find work
  • Being qualified to acquire professional licenses
  • Obtain housing assistance
  • Preserve Immigration Benefits
  • Keep your mind at ease by knowing that you have a clean record

If you're trying to get ahead after a conviction for domestic violence, an expungement could be your best option. It could also help in putting the past to rest.

The Likelihood of Success While Expunging a Domestic Violence Record from Your Criminal Record

The likelihood of success while expunging a domestic violence record varies in each state because each incident, each jurisdiction, and each court is unique. Domestic violence crimes are not usually the kind of crimes that people regularly conduct except in cases when substance misuse is present or the offender is entangled in a dysfunctional relationship.

Even though certain domestic violence incidents are violent and need to be addressed seriously, these crimes are often arguments that spiral out of control between individuals in intimate relationships and are experiencing strong emotions. Because of this, courts typically grant expungement petitions when given the facts, particularly if the applicant has gone several years without being charged with a domestic abuse offense.

Can I Get My Gun Rights Back That I Lost After Being Found Guilty of Domestic Violence?

The Lautenberg Amendment imposes a lifetime ban on the possession of firearms on anyone found guilty of misdemeanor domestic abuse as specified by federal laws. If you were convicted of domestic abuse, the federal statute might not apply because the federal interpretation is more restrictive than certain state definitions.

Domestic violence is defined under federal law (United States Code 921(i)(33)) as any act that "includes, as an aspect, the utilization or attempted utilization of physical force, or threatening to use a lethal weapon, perpetrated by a former or current husband, guardian or victim's parent, by an individual with whom the plaintiff has a child, by an individual who is or has lived with their victim as a partner, guardian, or parent.

Expungement doesn't remove the federal ban on possessing a firearm except if the state similarly irrevocably bans the right to own one. Possession of a firearm is also restricted in several states, such as California, for certain periods after a conviction for domestic abuse. These restrictions will also not be lifted through expungement.

Does This Mean That All Records are Erased and the Court File is Destroyed?

No, a record expungement alters and brings up to speed the status of the matter to show a record dismissal under Penal Code 1203.4. This indicates that the files maintained by the Courts, FBI, and the California DOJ, are updated to reflect that a fresh not-guilty plea has been submitted and that the matter has been dismissed and reserved by the Judge. It neither makes the verdict "invisible" nor completely erases all traces of the conviction.

How Long Does It Take to Expunge a Record in California?

An expungement will typically take between 90 and 120 days, but it could take much longer in some courts or for older cases. The time it takes for an expungement to be granted by a judge is influenced by a number of factors. Among these factors include:

  • How long it took for the expungement to be filed after the conviction
  • How current the case information is in the courthouse's filing system at the time the expungement is submitted
  • If the charges are misdemeanors or felonies
  • How complicated the matter is
  • If the case record for expungement has to be handled in a court where the file is stored
  • If the judge orders a probationary Report to be written before the case goes to court

Some courts have a reputation for processing expungements quickly, typically "turning around" applications in six to eight weeks. However, since expungement applications have no deadline and aren't given priority by the court system, they sometimes have several weeks or even months of delays.

Find a Los Angeles Expungement Attorney Near Me

Suppose you're thinking about seeking an expungement for domestic violence in California. In that case, the Record Expungement Attorney can offer professional advice on the approach you need to take for your particular case. Our lawyers will assist you in promptly and thoroughly filling out the application, and they can also serve as your legal counsel during the expungement process. We understand how stressful the expungement process can be, and we are available to help you through it. Call us at 424-286-1516 to set up a consultation with one of our reputable lawyers today.