Have you been convicted of a crime in California? Have you suffered seeming unfairness and inequality since your conviction, even though you fulfilled your sentencing? If so, you may want to consider an expungement.
Sometimes known as an expunction, expungement refers to the court-ordered action of “setting aside”, or dismissing, the record of a criminal conviction. Expungement is a legal process that a convicted person can apply to the court for. If the court determines it is appropriate, the court orders for the dismissal, or expungement, to happen and the records reflect this change.
The biggest benefit to an expungement is that the specific arrest or criminal conviction is no longer seen on a person’s criminal records for most instances, including in a job-hunting scenario when potential employers are likely to run criminal background checks on potential employees. An applicant to a job who has obtained an expungement does not need to disclose the arrest or crime conviction.
At Record Expungement Attorney, we are committed to helping people across Riverside and the Inland Empire clean up their records. Whether a minor infraction or a felony conviction, we can help you seek an expungement.
We put together this information to help you understand why expungement is useful and the benefits it can provide. While this is a general overview of expungement and conviction dismissals in California, it should not be considered legal advice. Only an experienced legal professional who understands your specific case is authorized to provide such counsel.
EXPUNGEMENT IN CALIFORNIA
An expungement in the State of California is a specific legal process known as a 1203.4 dismissal, named because its section in the California Penal Code. Expungements vary from state to state, but in California, an expungement refers to setting aside and dismissing any criminal conviction. This does not mean that your conviction is somehow erased, destroyed, or otherwise cleared. Instead, it means that your conviction is set aside and dismissed.
What does an expungement look like? It used to be that many state criminal records were kept in state files in Sacramento, the California capital, and sometimes in county government buildings and agencies. Today, however, it is more likely that your files are digitized and exist in a state or county electronic database. Whether physical or electronic records, these records are available in the public view. If someone goes to look up your case using your case number, the member of the public would typically be able to see the details of your case, including that you were formally convicted (determined to be guilty) of the crime in question.
Instead, if you’ve obtained an expungement, it means that next to your case number within the public record, the document will show that any decision regarding your case has been dismissed, often pursuant to the 1203.4 law. The public record no longer reflects that you had been convicted of your crime.
Importantly, an expungement does not make your record separate from the public record, which anyone can request to view. That process is known as sealing a record.
BENEFITS OF EXPUNGEMENT
There are many benefits of expungement in California, including improved chances at obtaining certain opportunities, such as gainful employment, state licenses (such as nursing or teaching licenses), rental properties, and more. Some research also indicates that communities benefit from expungements, as people with convictions are no longer forced to the edges of society.
The following sections describe common benefits of expungement in California.
IMPROVED CHANCES OF GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT
Many people who have been arrested or, particularly, convicted of a crime have an extremely difficult time finding work, as most companies choose not to hire such individuals. This means the person in question can have an extremely difficult time obtaining a legal job and obtaining the rights and benefits accompanied with one. Therefore, when an arrested or convicted person can obtain a court-ordered expungement, his or her opportunity for good, steady work is much more likely.
Upon applying for a job, most employers have a legal right to and do ask individuals to disclose any previous arrests or criminal convictions. The applicant has a right not to disclose this information, but most employers will perform their own background checks on potential hires. Such a background check would typically disclose the information, and the employer may see that the applicant lied or attempted to obstruct the information. This often results in the employer opting against hiring the applicant.
A common best practice for most job applicants is to disclose the information – some companies may not mind certain arrests or convictions. Plus, many employers believe it is better to be honest in this situation, as it may indicate more reliability on behalf of the applicant.
Once you obtain a legal dismissal (expungement), you can answer no when a potential employer asks you to disclose whether you have ever been convicted.
IMPROVED CHANCE OF MAINTAINING CURRENT EMPLOYMENT
Importantly, even if you are already gainfully employed, an employer may have the legal right to terminate your employment (fire you) upon the occurrence of a conviction. But, if your employer learns that your criminal conviction has been expunged, or dismissed, it is illegal for the employer to terminate your employment. Once you have secured a conviction dismissal, it also illegal for an employer to use this information, however it is obtained, against you in terms of promoting, rewarding, or otherwise affecting your employment.
YOU ARE NO LONGER CONSIDERED A FELON IN THE PUBLIC VIEW
People who are convicted of felony crimes are known as felons. It can be a difficult title to carry, as our society associates bad people with felons and we don’t like to think of them as individuals who made a mistake. For example, in the U.S., felons often lose some important rights that are afforded to American citizens, such as the right to vote or the right to bear arms in accordance with the Second Amendment.
While an expungement does not reinstate those rights immediately, it does improve the way people see you. If your conviction was for a first-time offense, and you successfully obtained a dismissal, or expungement, of your conviction, the public no longer considers you a felon. You are not obligated to disclose crimes in situations relating to seeking or maintaining employment, housing, and even some financial situations.
GENERAL KNOWLEDGE OF YOUR SITUATION DECREASES AND YOUR REPUTATION IMPROVES
Part of a crime conviction is how your social status changes as a result of it. Your reputation among friends, family, professional networks, and even people who only know you in passing can be impacted negatively because of your conviction. People may search your name online, plugging it into California databases to learn the details.
Because an expungement sets aside your conviction, your reputation and dignity can rebound more swiftly, which may improve your relationship with your community.
YOU MAY BE ELIGIBLE FOR REHABILITATION AND EVEN A FULL PARDON OF YOUR CRIME
A certificate of rehabilitation (COR) is an official court order than declares that a person with a crime conviction is now rehabilitated. In the U.S., only six states, including California, allow for certificates of rehabilitation to be granted to people with criminal convictions. This is an additional step in clearing your criminal record to afford you more opportunities to live your life in a beneficial, positive way.
The first step in obtaining a COR is to obtain an expungement for the crime. Like an expungement, a COR does not seal or remove your record from public view, but it does help in obtaining employment, housing, and even state and professional licenses. After your expungement, you may wait out the “period of rehabilitation”, which is a period of time that shows you have stayed away from crime and are seeking and upholding positive improvements in your life. California Penal Code section 4852.05 lists a general definition for an upstanding citizen seeking a COR.
For many expunged convictions, the minimum period of rehabilitation is seven years after the completion of your parole or probation, though other convictions do require a longer wait time.
Unfortunately, like expungements, not all convictions are eligible for a COR or a pardon, particularly if you were convicted on specific, serious sex offenses. Likewise, if you are currently serving in the U.S. military, reside outside the State of California, or are convicted of a misdemeanor or a reduced felony, you are not eligible for a COR for that crime.
If you do obtain a COR, you are automatically applied to a governor’s pardon. A pardon
is an official declaration by the California Governor that realizes and formalizes your efforts in maintaining an exemplary, productive, law-abiding life post-conviction. Importantly, a pardon can restore some rights of citizenship that you may have forfeited, such as the following:
- The right to own a legal firearm, upon federal approval (unless your conviction was for a felony involving the use of a legal or illegal weapon)
- The right to be considered for some law enforcement positions, including an appointment as a county probation officer or state parole agent
- The relief of your requirement to register as a sex offender, assuming your COR did not remove this requirement
Though official pardons are the last step in entirely clearing your record, they are notoriously hard to obtain. A good rule of thumb is that you must be at least 10 years removed from your last probation or parole and you have taken part in no other criminal activity or offenses.
EXPUNGEMENTS BENEFIT THE WIDER COMMUNITY
While we often think of expungements as only helping improve the life of the person convicted, Stanford University research indicates that expungement actually benefit the community at large, as well. Studies show that expungements actually lead to increased tax revenue, because more people are gainfully employed. Conviction dismissals also reduce reliance on public assistance programs that often go to under- or unemployed.
The 2014 study estimates that a single expungement outweighs the cost of the conviction by about $5,800 in the first year, a combination of income, increased state and local tax revenue, and reductions in government payouts. Of course, after the first year, the court’s costs of expungement are reduced to nothing, but the local government continues to benefit from the person’s increased taxes and decreased government payouts.
HOW DO I BEGIN AN EXPUNGEMENT?
Seeking an expungement in California is not too difficult, but it does require specific eligibility requirements. For instance, if you are convicted of infractions or misdemeanor crimes, you may have an easier time applying for an expungement. If you are convicted of a felony, your process is more complicated, as it requires additional steps.
Unfortunately, some crimes are never eligible for expungement, including any crime for which you served time in a state prison (not a county jail or an equivalency program). Other crimes that are entirely ineligible for an expungement are or relate to sex crimes, lewd acts, or pornography involving children (aged 14 or under).
When considering an expungement, begin by obtaining a copy of your criminal records. You can refer to the court papers you received when you were convicted. Other resources include your lawyer, your case contacts within the court, your parole and probation officers, and perhaps even the law enforcement community where you committed the crime. Both the Superior Court which convicted you and the California State Department of Justice also retain copies of your record.
You’ll also need to gather the details of the specific conviction you’re looking to have expunged, including the case number, the plea dates, the California codes that you violated, as well as your fine, probation, and sentencing.
Improve your chances of obtaining an expungement in California by partnering with Record Expungement Attorney. Our team of legal professionals specialize in expungements and conviction dismissals across Riverside County and the Inland Empire. We’ll know exactly how to help you navigate the legal process. Call Record Expungement Attorney today at 951-916-9248. We are ready to help you clear your record!