Don't Let Your Past Limit Your Future
Having a criminal record in California makes life more difficult. A criminal record can limit you from getting the job you want, obtaining housing, getting professional licenses, legally owning a firearm, qualifying for government programs, receiving student loans, and many other opportunities which would otherwise be available to you.
To make matters worse, criminal records in California are typically available to the public without even needing a formal California background check. Often, anybody with a connection to the Internet can find your California criminal record. Fortunately, California law permits the expungement of both felony and misdemeanor convictions, with the main requirement of not having been sentenced to prison.
Expunging a California conviction results in the dismissal of your conviction, removing the conviction from your California criminal record. In other words, a California felony expungement reopens your criminal case and changes the result from a felony conviction to a dismissal.
Although a California expungement does not destroy your California criminal record entirely, it does result in the conviction no longer existing, permitting you to legally state that you have never been convicted of the crime. Further, recent California law has made it an “unlawful employment practice” for an employer with more than five employees to inquire about expunged convictions.
Since the majority of people reading this aren’t lawyers, we’ve tried to simplify the legal jargon on our website, so regular people may follow along and get the information needed to understand their rights. However, before we get started, we should be clear that some of this information can get complicated, and, in many cases, it’s best to seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
To help you understand your rights, our lawyers have developed a tool that can be helpful in figuring out your options. This tool can’t be perfectly accurate in every situation, but our lawyers have invested substantial time and resources working to make it as accurate as possible.
You can get started by using our Secure Eligibility Test, or you can give us a call at (844) 947-3732 to see if our legal staff is available for a free consultation. Be aware that our staff is often busy with current clients and a high volume of calls and appointments. If you’re serious about getting rid of your record, your best bet is to take our Secure Eligibility Test and then schedule an appointment to discuss your results and options.
California law allows you to expunge both misdemeanor and felony convictions in many situations under PC 1203.4, but not everything qualifies. There are certain offenses that currently do not qualify to be expunged under California law, and you generally can’t have been sentenced to prison. In addition to meeting these requirements, you must have successfully completed probation and paid all fines, restitution, and other financial terms imposed by the court.
The general requirements to expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction in California are discussed more below, but they include:
Note that California recently passed Assembly Bill No. 1115, which allows some offenders who were given prison sentences to expunge their records. This new exception is somewhat complicated and will be discussed in more detail below in the section over the prison sentence requirement.
One of the very first requirements of PC 1203.4 requires that the “defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation,” but, if you’re still on probation, you can sometimes petition to terminate your probation early under PC 1203.3 and file for an expungement at the same time. We discuss early probation termination in greater detail below.
Like most other states, California requires that you do not have any new, pending, or ongoing criminal proceedings. Simply, you must have any new criminal matters resolved prior to seeking expungement for existing criminal records. This concept should be easy to understand, but please feel free to reach out to us if you need clarification.
Most of the time, you must have paid all fines, costs, restitution, and other financial obligations to qualify for expungement. In certain situations, the judge may be persuaded to grant the expungement order anyways, but this is rarely done. This should be thought as a requirement for expunging a California conviction from your record.
The most common requirement seeming to disqualify people from expunging convictions is that you cannot have been sentenced to California State Prison. However, since the passage of Assembly Bill No. 1115, there are certain situations some who have been sentenced to prison may still seek expungement under PC 1203.42. To use this new law, you must have been convicted prior to July 1, 2011, and it also only applies to certain types of offenses discussed below.
Expungements for Felony Convictions Resulting in Jail Time
In 2011, California made significant changes to its felony sentencing rules, commonly known as “realignment” under California Penal Code 1170(h). The main change in “realignment” was that convictions for many non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual felony convictions, could now result in county jail sentences instead of state prison sentences. Since these sentencing rules were not available prior to July 1, 2011, the defendant may have been sentenced to county jail instead of prison and qualified for expungement.
To expunge a California felony conviction that resulted in a prison sentence, the following requirements must be met to qualify under PC 1203.42, including:
The following convictions cannot be expunged under PC 1203.4(b):
Ineligible Sex Offenses
Ineligible Misdemeanor Vehicle Offenses
In addition, PC 1203.4 does not apply to a number of traffic violations listed in subsections (a) through (e) of VC 12810.
If you’ve completed at least half of the term of your probation and have completed all of the other conditions of your sentence, the court has the discretion to terminate your probation early under PC 1203.3 and file a petition to expunge your record. This is a highly subjective process that gives the judge quite a bit of freedom in deciding to allow you to terminate your probation early.
The judge will likely consider quite a few different factors in making their ruling, but some of the more common factors considered in their decisions to terminate probations early include:
Early probation termination has the added benefit of releasing you from your sentence, but it is typically more difficult than obtaining an expungement. In other words, if you’re successful in terminating your probation, you should be successful in obtaining an expungement as well.
Expunging a conviction under California law allows you to legally state that you were not convicted of a crime, however, an expungement alone will not restore your firearm rights. To restore your firearm rights, you will need to also qualify to reduce a felony conviction to a dismissed misdemeanor under PC 17(b). A brief discussion of felony reductions is below, and in more detail on our California Firearm Rights Restoration Page.
The two biggest issues our law firm’s clients encounter relate to obtaining employment and restoring firearm rights, so we’re going to discuss each.
How will expunging my conviction help me get a job?
Expunging a California conviction is one of the best ways to improve your chances of getting a job when you have a criminal record. Obtaining an expungement indicates that you’re no longer a “criminal” and releases you from the judgement of guilt. It allows you to legally state that you have not been convicted of the expunged offense.
An expungement in California does not destroy or remove your record completely from the public record like sealing an arrest. Instead, when you are granted an expungement, the court reopens the case, vacates your conviction and dismisses the charges. If accompanied with a felony reduction, it also reduces the actual offense and results in a dismissed misdemeanor instead of a felony conviction. Additionally, California has recently enacted a number of laws making it illegal to discriminate in hiring based on expunged records.
With the amendment of Section 432.7 of the California Labor Code, an employer may not ask a job applicant for information relating to an arrest that did not result in a conviction, may not ask about diversion programs, and may not even search for non-conviction records. This law prohibits information about non-convictions from being considered as a factor in any aspect of the employment process, however, employers may inquire into an arrest for which there is a pending trial. This new law considers pleas, verdicts, or findings of guilt to be convictions. Regarding juvenile records, employers are prohibited from asking applicants about a juvenile case regardless of result and may not use information from those cases as factors in any aspect of the employment process.
Will expunging my felony conviction restore my Second Amendment Rights?
Expunging a California felony conviction alone will not restore your firearm rights. However, when combined with a reduction under PC 17(b), your firearm rights will often be restored. The main additional requirement to reduce a conviction is that the offense is a “wobbler,” or a crime that could either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The list of “wobbler” offenses is pretty long, but we’ve prepared a list of many of the more common “wobbler” offenses here.
Not everybody with a California felony conviction can restore their constitutional right to own or possess firearms, but California’s laws are favorable when compared to most other states. It should be noted that you can almost never restore firearm rights based on federal convictions, and it can be very difficult if your Second Amendment rights were taken away due to a domestic violence conviction. For more information about federal firearm rights and domestic violence charges, the Department of Justice has resources you can find over domestic violence convictions.
We will go into more detail regarding restoring Second Amendment rights in California on our California Firearm Rights Restoration page, but restoration typically involves both state and federal law that should be handled by an experienced lawyer. The lawyers in our firm regularly handle complex firearm rights restoration issues, so a good first step in exploring whether you can restore your firearm rights would be to take our Secure Eligibility Test. Then, if appropriate, setting up a time to speak with our legal staff about how to proceed.
If you are tired of having a criminal record hold you back, reach out to us by taking our Secure Eligibility Test or by giving us a call at (844) 947-3732. Our law firm has helped thousands of people with criminal records move on in life, leaving many of the negative effects of a criminal record behind. Our experienced attorneys and legal staff are here to help you figure out what criminal record clearing services best fit your needs, and then help you accomplish your goals. Using our secure, confidential Eligibility Test is the best way to get the process started.
Some of the potential benefits of expunging your criminal record in California include:
Each of California’s methods for dealing with your criminal record have different requirements and are meant for different circumstances. To move forward, it’s important to determine what California criminal record services are available to you, and then select the services that will provide the greatest benefit. Eastman Meyler, PC is here to help you navigate this very specific area of California criminal law, fight to protect your rights, and assist you in moving forward in life without the effects of a California criminal record.
You can trust that you will get exceptional service from our law firm, as we have an A Rating from the Better Business Bureau, and prestigious attorney rating services such as Thompson Reuters and Avvo list our attorneys as Super Lawyers and Superb Attorneys. Our law firm has attorneys licensed to practice law in all California state courts, provides low price guarantees, and is here to fight for you and put your criminal record behind you!
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