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Criminal records have many negative consequences that go well beyond serving time in jail or having to pay a fine.

As many people find out, employers and landlords often want to know about an applicant’s criminal history and are only too happy to reject an application for a criminal record, even a very old conviction.

Fortunately, California doesn’t believe that a person’s criminal history must follow them around indefinitely. Instead, you can seek felony and misdemeanor expungements in California (called a “dismissal”), which can wipe out your criminal record in many cases. Follow the steps below.

Obtain Records of All Criminal Convictions

Expungements in California depends on the crimes you were convicted of. To begin the process, you should first gather copies of all your criminal convictions. You can contact your attorney who defended you, who might have the relevant documents. If not, get into touch with the superior court where you were convicted or where you pled guilty. This might not be the courthouse which is closest to where you currently live.

Determine Whether You Qualify for Expungement

Not everyone qualifies for an expungement in California. However, you probably qualify if:

  • You have successfully completed probation for the offense
  • You did not serve time in state prison or, if you did serve time in state prison, you could have received time in county jail instead after the state implemented AB 109 (also known as “Realignment”).

If you served time in prison, you cannot expunge a record in California. You should review your criminal history and contact us for assistance. It might be possible for your attorney to ask a judge to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor.

Other people are not currently eligible for expungement in California if they:

  • Are currently on probation for a criminal offense. However, an attorney can ask a judge to terminate probation early and to grant an expungement.
  • Are serving a sentence for a criminal offense.
  • Are currently charged with a criminal offense.

Some felonies involving sex crimes with children are also not eligible for expungement. These include the following crimes in the California Penal Code:

  • Section 286(c) (sodomy with a child);
  • Section 288 (lewd acts with a Child);
  • Section 288(a)(c) (oral copulation with a child);
  • Section 261.5(d) (statutory rape).

Overcoming Common Hurdles

There are some common situations where a person does not currently qualify for expungement but can nevertheless make a request:

  • You are currently on probation. Your attorney can ask the judge to grant an early termination of probation and then grant dismissal of your charges.
  • You were convicted of a felony and served time in “local prison”. Under Penal Code 31203.4, you can request that a judge dismiss your case.

Do not automatically assume you don’t qualify for expungement. Instead, meet with us so we can go over your criminal record and discuss your chances of success.

File Appropriate Paperwork with the Court

A defendant must make an application to the court requesting expungement. The court can then allow a defendant to withdraw his or her guilty plea and enter a not guilty plea, or the judge can set aside any guilty verdict.

You must satisfy the timelines for filing paperwork. The court will hold a hearing, and the defendant must give notice to the prosecutor so that he or she can review the case. A defendant must give at least 15 days’ notice.

Attend a Hearing

At the hearing, a judge will review the paperwork and hear from the prosecutor if he or she chooses to object to the expungement. If you are currently on probation, your attorney will also need to argue why you should be granted early termination. So long as you have not violated the terms of your probation, you will have a very strong argument. However, if you have violated the terms of your probation, then a lawyer will need to convince a judge that you nevertheless deserve expungement.

Your attorney might also need to convince the judge to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor so you can qualify for an expungement. Prosecutors sometimes object to this, especially if you committed a serious crime.

Determine Next Steps if You Do Not Qualify for Expungement

As mentioned above, not everyone qualifies for dismissal of their conviction. However, a defendant still has options which he or she should discuss with a lawyer:

  • Seek a California certificate of rehabilitation
  • Seek a pardon from the Governor

An experienced criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, ALPC, can review your case and determine your best path forward for cleaning up your record.

Please contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, in June 2007. Prior to that, he was employed as the senior associate attorney for a large criminal defense firm in San Diego for nine years, eventually being placed in charge of that firm’s branch office in downtown San Diego. At one point, he was managing six attorneys at that firm, as well as several support staff and law clerks.