When you get a misdemeanor or felony conviction in California, you leave a trail behind you in the form of your criminal record.
As expungement lawyers, it is our mission to educate our clients about the benefits and limitations of a California expungement, so that you can find the help you need.
It is also our mission to help our clients win their motion for expungement in California courts quickly and efficiently.
Expungement Lawyers Who Educate Our Clients
The first thing we do as expungement lawyers is educate our clients about the benefits and limitations of an expungement.
Legal Grounds and Purpose of Expungement Law
A California expungement has its grounds in Penal Code 1203.4. The purpose of this law is to help those who have a criminal conviction under the California Penal Code move forward uninhibited by that conviction, as long as certain requirements can be met.
Legal Requirements to Obtain an Expungement in California
Felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions alike can all be expunged. However, not every case is eligible for an expungement.
Certain factors will automatically disqualify you from relief under Penal Code 1203.4, such as:
- You spent time in prison for the offense you are trying to clear (this applies to felony cases only).
- You spent time in jail under the AB 109 felony sentencing re-alignment program.
- You were convicted of one of the offenses expressly prohibited by Penal Code 1203.4 (these offenses mostly involve egregious sex convictions).
These limitations do not apply to the majority of the population, but should be noted in case it applies to you.
Assuming you are not outright prohibited from record clearing relief, there are two circumstances under which you may get your record cleared with an expungement – either on a mandatory basis or on a discretionary basis.
An expungement is mandatory in two cases, when:
- In the case where probation was granted and successfully completed: you completed probation without incident (no probation violations) + you are are not currently charged with a crime, on probation for a conviction, or serving a sentence for any other offense.
- In the case of a misdemeanor or infraction conviction where no probation was granted, you’re entitled to an expungement if for an entire year after the pronouncement of judgment, you:
- Successfully completed the sentence,
- Lead an honest and upright life, and
- Conformed to and obeyed the law.
A mandatory expungement is not automatic, however. Part of our job as expungement lawyers when helping our clients with a mandatory expungement is to ensure the motion is not denied on procedural or technical grounds.
Proper expungement procedure involves the following:
- Draft the motion – if you do not use the correct forms, apply the correct law, and present the correct facts, your motion could be denied.
- Serve the motion on all interested parties – different prosecutorial agencies prosecute different crimes. If you served the incorrect prosecutorial agency, or failed to serve the prosecutor at all, your motion could be denied or delayed for improper service.
- File the motion with the court clerk – make sure you’ve accounted for the proper filing fee, and properly served the correct prosecutorial agency (discussed above). Know how many copies are needed for your specific court branch.
- Argue the motion in court in front of the judge and against the prosecutors. Not every case requires a physical appearance, but often it does. Be prepared to argue logically and confidently against the prosecutor and in front of the judge and in front of those in the courtroom.
As expungement lawyers, we can handle the above steps for you so your motion is not unnecessarily denied or delayed.
An expungement is discretionary when you violated probation, but the court finds relief should be granted in the “interests of justice.” California case law has developed some guidelines for determining what the “interests of justice” means, but it’s nearly equally ambiguous: “any relevant information.” Clear as mud, right?
In our experience as expungement lawyers, we’ve seen judges consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to grant a discretionary expungement:
- the number of times probation was violated (if more than once), and reasons for violating probation;
- post-probation conduct;
- career goals;
- volunteer work;
- letters of reference (pastor, employer, instructor, etc.);
- desire to serve in the military; and
- desire to obtain higher education or professional advancement.
The best way to get your motion granted, in the case where the expungement motion is discretionary, is to consider all relevant factors and argue them persuasively before the court. As expungement lawyers, this is what we do for our clients.
Effect and Scope of a California Expungement
Before our clients hire us, it is important for them to understand the benefits and limitations of an expungement. We have no interest in wasting our clients’ time or money on efforts that won’t match their goals.
Sometimes our clients come to us for help and they begin with unrealistic goals, simply because they are not yet aware of what is actually possible to achieve under California law.
There are at least a couple of limitations of an expungement that seem to be commonly misconstrued by the general public:
- An expungement in California does not seal your record. Record sealing is possible, but is a legal remedy only available in limited circumstances and it is not achieved by getting an expungement.
- An expungement of a felony does not restore your gun rights (only a Governor’s pardon or felony reduction to a misdemeanor can do that – assuming the misdemeanor wouldn’t also take away your gun rights).
But understanding the power of what an expungement will accomplish for you may make it a worthy pursuit in your unique situation, depending on your circumstances.
Here are some of the many benefits of expunging your conviction:
- An expungement clears up your record and helps it look better by undoing your conviction and dismissing the charge.
- Once your conviction is expunged you don’t have to disclose it (except in three very limited circumstances: (1) you are applying for licensure by the State, (2) you are contracting with the California State Lottery Commission, or (3) you are applying for public office).
- An expungement can increase your ability to travel to countries that would otherwise deny you access due to your conviction (such as Canada).
- Once your case has been expunged, you’re protected under CA Labor Code 432.7 from employment discrimination that may otherwise occur due to your criminal history.
A motion granted under Penal Code 1203.4 can only help your situation, but that doesn’t mean you need or want one.
We always make it very clear to our clients upfront about “what you get” when you “get an expungement.”
Examples of How Expungements Have Helped Our Clients
There are many different reasons why our clients approach us for help with expungements, and each client’s situation is unique. In most cases our clients are in need of a misdemeanor expungement, for a low grade offense such as petty theft or DUI.
To help you get an idea of the types of situations where others have found it beneficial and helpful to seek relief under Penal Code 1203.4, here are a few real life examples from prior clients (names and identifying details are omitted to preserve attorney-client confidentiality):
- A woman applying for licensure to become a nurse. (Note: You have to disclose an expunged conviction to any California State licensing agency, but licensing agencies view an expunged conviction more favorably than a conviction that hasn’t been expunged.)
- A man told by his employer he must expunge his criminal conviction before they would hire him for a position in the insurance industry.
- A man seeking to travel to Canada, but was unable to do so due to his misdemeanor DUI offense (the expungement allowed him access).
- A business owner who desired to contract with government entities and wanted to improve his reputation.
- A woman with a petty theft conviction seeking advancement in her corporate retail position.
You may have a unique situation that can be improved through obtaining an expungement. You can contact us for a free consultation to help determine if an expungement is right for you.
Benefits of Hiring an Expungement Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer isn’t the best path for everyone. If you want a snapshot of the benefits of hiring expungement lawyers to assist you with your case, consider the following:
- You won’t have to appear in court – applies to misdemeanor cases and some felonies.
- In certain felony cases in certain jurisdictions, your lawyer can also appear in court without you present (although not as frequently as with misdemeanor cases).
- Skip the trial and error – an experienced law firm will save you the time and expense associated with trying to do things on your own. There are many details and procedures associated with filing expungement motions, which if not followed correctly, can result in the denial or delay of your motion.
- Remove the confusion surrounding what you are asking the court to do, and what that means once the court gives you what you want. In other words, understand what is going on when you are asking the court to expunge your record.
If you’re interested in getting help with your California expungement, call Attorney Paul Denni for a free consultation at 888-250-8450, or use the Contact Form below.