Record Expungement Attorney
A past arrest and/or criminal conviction need not chase you and hamper you for the rest of your life. Under California law, you can seek an expungement to remove a conviction from your police record, and put the word "dismissal" in its place. And you can also apply for arrest record sealing and a number of other ways of putting the past behind you legally, according to California law.
At Record Expungement Attorney, we have deep knowledge and experience on how expungement, record sealing, certificates of rehabilitation, and other similar processes work in California. We know how to help you efficiently file the necessary petitions and paperwork and guide you through the process step by step.
There are many means available to prevent an arrest or conviction on your criminal record from coming up in employer background checks and hindering your ability to get a good job and pursue other life goals. And while there are specific eligibility requirements for expungement and other record clearing options, there's a good chance you in fact qualify - and we can also show you how to make adjustments, if necessary, to qualify in the future.
If you have any questions or concerns related to California expungement and related legal matters, feel free to contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 619-432-7544. We will give you a free consultation and give immediate attention to your case!
What Is "Expungement?" And How Does It Work?
Under California Penal Code Section 1203.4, there is the possibility of getting "relief" from many of the negative impacts of having a conviction on your record.
An "expungement" happens when a conviction is "expunged" (removed) from your record. But a "blank space" is not left in its place. Instead, "dismissed" is written where "convicted of" was once printed. Thus, an expungement is also sometimes referred to as a dismissal of a criminal charge.
Benefits of Expungement
The most notable benefit of expungement is that it becomes much easier to get a good job. In today's world, most employers access applicants' past police records electronically in a background check before seriously considering them for employment. If convictions come up, especially felonies, they often pass you by.
Employers may run a full background check, in which case they'd see the dismissal that the expungement left behind. Employers are not allowed legally to discriminate against someone over an expunged case or over a dismissal, and most wouldn't do so.
However, many employers only run a more limited form of background check anyway that only searches for convictions. In that case, nothing at all would be turned up once a past conviction has been expunged.
Additional benefits of expungement include: better chance of keeping or obtaining a new state-issued professional license, easier to get approved for enrollment in college or grad school, and less problems (if any) in getting approved for an apartment lease.
Limitations of Expungement
Although the benefits of expungement are quite broad, there are in fact a few limitations.
First of all, if you are applying for certain California professional licenses, for a law enforcement job, for a state lotto position, or for a public service position, you still have to reveal the past conviction on your job application (but not otherwise.)
Secondly, if you are again convicted of a crime, even an expunged offense can count as a prior and thus potentially increase the sentence for the new conviction. And expunged offenses still count as strikes under our state's Three Strikes Law.
Also, expungement does not automatically restore lost Second Amendment rights, does not restore a suspended driver's license, and does not cancel the duty to register as a sex offender under PC 290.
But, in reality, driver's license suspensions for DUIs are normally already over by the time you would petition for an expungement. And there are other ways to get lost gun rights restored and further improve your ability to get a professional license.
PC 1203.4 allows for both misdemeanor and felony convictions to be expunged, though it's much easier to get a misdemeanor expunged. And in many cases, you need to first file for sentence reduction, to turn a felony into a misdemeanor, before getting it expunged from the record.
You cannot get a charge expunged if you were never convicted for it - in that case, you would need to seek arrest record sealing (on which see more below).
If you were already in a diversion program or deferred entry of judgment program, which ultimately led to the charge being dismissed, then you don't need an expungement because your record already says "dismissed."
To qualify for expungement in California, you cannot currently be charged with a new criminal offense, nor can you have a new conviction on your record following the one you want expunged. BUT, you can petition to expunge multiple offenses all at the same time, though you must file separately for each one and in the proper court(s).
You must not have served actual prison time for the offense in order to get it expunged, unless it's a crime that could have been given a non-prison term sentence after "Realignment" when many California felonies became misdemeanors and many sentences were reduced.
NOTE: you CAN expunge a crime for which you served only jail (not prison) time or that could have been punished with only jail time under today's sentencing standards.
There are certain types of crimes that don't qualify for expungement, such as sex crimes against minors and certain other very serious felonies. But most convictions qualify.
Also, you can't get a conviction expunged if it was prosecuted in federal court - it has to be a state of California conviction.
Finally, you need to have successfully completed your probation term, meaning not only the time has passed but all requirements, like paying fines and restitution, attending drug rehab classes, and not committing any additional crimes during probation, have been met.
Early Termination of Probation
There is an exception, which is often used, to the rule you must first complete your probationary period before petitioning for expungement. You can petition for early termination of probation simultaneously to petitioning for expungement.
If granted, early termination can shorten probation considerably - sometimes cut the time in half. You don't usually have to have a perfect probation record, with zero violations, but it's at the judge's discretion whether to grant early termination. Normally, however, you have to have a "good" probation record at least. And you typically have to wait two years after the conviction to be considered for early termination of probation and then expungement immediately following.
The Expungement Process
You may still be wondering, "How is expungement done?" The fact is, expungement is not an automatic process. You have to file (petition) for it or it won't happen.
We can assist you in filling out all necessary forms completely and in a way that will maximize your chances of getting the expungement petition approved. The petition has to be filed with the court where the conviction took place for each offense you want expunged. And incomplete or incorrect information on the paperwork could cause significant delays or even lead to an expungement being denied - which is why you want the expertise of a good expungement lawyer!
First, however, we analyze whether or not you meet the eligibility requirements for expungement. Then, if you do, we file.
Next, we have to meet various deadlines, which in part have to do with giving the prosecution time to contest the petition if they so desire.
Finally, we can appear in your behalf at the expungement hearing, where we will argue your case before the presiding judge. Normally, you don't have to appear personally at the hearing, but of course, you can if you wish.
The judge will weigh factors such as your overall past criminal record, the severity of the offense to be expunged, how well you did on probation, and your "need" for the expungement due to a job opportunity, a college enrollment period coming up, or other factors.
We at Record Expungement Attorney have won numerous previous expungement hearings and helped many in San Diego and beyond put the past behind them. We stand ready to do the same for you.
Other Record Clearing Actions Besides Expungement
The fact is, there are a number of important ways you can "clean up" your record aside from expungement in California. Expungement only applies in particular types of cases, so these "other" record clearing processes are often done instead of expungement. But there are two processes done in preparation for expungement rather than in place of it, which we've mentioned above but will simply list here again:
- Early termination of probation, allowing for immediate filing for expungement.
- Sentence reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor, which can pave the way for an offense qualifying for expungement that might not have otherwise.
Here below, we'll look at other record clearing actions not related to expungement:
Arrest Record Sealing
If you were arrested for a criminal offense but not convicted, you could qualify for arrest record sealing. Recently, California has made it a right to get your arrest records sealed under the following circumstances:
- You were arrested but never charged (AND the statute of limitations for that crime has passed so you can't be charged in the future. For many crimes, the statute of limitations is 2 years, but it can be longer and the most serious crimes have no statute of limitation and thus can never have the arrest record sealed.)
- Your case was charged but then dismissed in court.
- Your case ended in an acquittal by a jury.
- You were convicted in a lower court but then that conviction was overturned in a higher court.
- You completed a Prop 36 or PC 1000 diversion program. That means the case will be dismissed and you can then seek to seal the arrest record as well.
This ability to petition for record sealing based on right is new, beginning in 2017, when changes were made to California record-sealing law. The reason for the change was that it seemed too unfair for people who were acquitted, had their cases dismissed, and certain others, to have an arrest record follow them and interfere with their employment opportunities for the rest of their lives. However, not all cases qualify for petition for arrest record sealing by right. That doesn't mean you can't petition or that you won't win, however.
If you can obtain a certificate of factual innocence, then the judge will order the arresting agency to seal the arrest record for three years' time and then destroy them. The sealing and ultimate destruction of arrest records works the same whether you arrive there based on right or based on factual innocence. Once an arrest record has been sealed, it is no longer in the public domain. It won't show up on background checks and you can legally say "no" if asked if you were ever arrested for the offense.
Certificate of Factual Innocence
The standard for getting a certificate of factual innocence is higher than that of being found "not guilty" in a trial. A Not Guilty verdict really just means that the prosecution could not meet the high burden of proof - "beyond all reasonable doubt," on all the elements of the crime.
But "factual innocence" means that there is no evidence against you or not enough at least for any reasonable person to conclude that you probably committed the crime. Thus, you normally have to have been arrested but not charged for lack of evidence, charged but then your case was dismissed, or you were found Not Guilty.
Plus, some additional evidence might be necessary in many cases to establish the high bar of factual innocence. But it can be done - and we at Record Expungement Attorney have, in fact, won many past petitions for a certificate of factual innocence for our clients.
Note that if you were arrested but not charged, under PC 849.5 & PC 851.6, you were technically "detained" rather than arrested. But you can still apply for a certificate of factual innocence for a detention. This certificate will cause your arrest record to be sealed for the next three years and then be permanently destroyed.
Certificate of Detention
The distinction between an arrest and a mere "detention" by police may seem trivial, but it can make a big difference on a police record if you're applying for a job. Plus, most California boards and agencies that issue professional licenses will not deny your application for a license based on a detention but they might base it on an arrest.
Therefore, applying to the "arresting" agency to get the arrest declared actual a mere detention, and getting that in writing as a certificate of detention can be important. And we at Record Expungement Attorney can assist you with that!
Sealing of Juvenile Records
You can get a juvenile arrest record sealed just like an adult arrest record, but the process is somewhat different If you are now an adult and have not been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for at least 5 years, there is no civil suit pending based on the incident you were arrested for, and you have not been convicted of any serious crimes as a adult, you should qualify for juvenile arrest record sealing.
However, there are certain juvenile crimes, like murder, armed robbery, and sex crimes against minors, that you can't get sealed. Most arrests while still under 18, however, do qualify for juvenile arrest record sealing. And if successful, the records will be sealed for 3 years and then destroyed just like with adult record sealing. The lawyers at Record Expungement Attorney have extensive experience in successfully handling both adult and juvenile record sealing processes.
Record Sealing After Case Dismissal
Not only can you get an arrest record sealed if the case went to court but then was dismissed (or never went to court at all), but you can also get the record of arrest sealed and destroyed if your case was ultimately dismissed due to successful completion of a drug diversion program or a deferred entry of judgment program that was part of a plea deal.
Finally, realize that you can begin with expungement to get a conviction changed to a dismissal on your record but then proceed to try to get the arrest connected with that now-dismissed charge sealed and ultimately destroyed.
Certificate of Rehabilitation
Another way to deal with a past criminal record is to seek a certificate of rehabilitation. This is a binding statement from the court that has the force of a court order and says that you have been rehabilitated from your past crimes.
There must be convincing evidence to present to the court that you have indeed changed your ways. You need to have not been convicted of further similar or other serious offenses, for example. And you have to wait anywhere from 7 to 10 years before you can apply for a certificate of rehabilitation. That is, 7 to 10 years after your incarceration, parole, or probationary period has ended. After you have served your full sentence. The exact length of the wait depends on the nature of the crime from which you are to be declared rehabilitated.
What benefit does a certificate of rehabilitation have? First, it automatically sets in motion an application for a pardon from the Governor of California. Second, it means that you can't legally be denied a state-issued professional license in California based solely on a past conviction for crimes from which you've been rehabilitated. Third, employers will see on any background check they run on you that you have been rehabilitated - and they also aren't legally allowed to discriminated based on your past criminal record once you have a certificate of rehabilitation.
The California State Constitution provides that the governor of our state may pardon whom he thinks fit from their past crimes for which they've been convicted. It is possible to apply directly for a governor's pardon at any point, but in practical terms, you generally have to wait 7 to 10 years after being released from custody - including probation, before you can apply.
If you have a certificate of rehabilitation, you can apply after only 7 years, but otherwise, it could be up to 10. That is, if you are able to get your certificate of rehabilitation 7 years after being released from custody, you will immediately, automatically apply for a governor's pardon - and it could be granted, potentially, in very little time. A certificate of factual innocence can also speed up the process and maybe get you a governor's pardon in even less than 7 years.
At Record Expungement Attorney, we have deep experience in assessing who can apply for a governor's pardon and when, and in doing everything possible to maximize the chance's the pardon will be granted.
Why Choose Record Expungement Attorney?
There's no shortage of law firms out there that offer to assist you with expungement, record clearing, and other related issues. But the fact is, many of them do it as an add on, "side job" sort of service. And many of them don't have a lot of experience, or their experience is limited to only a couple of micro-areas.
We at Record Expungement Attorney stand out in stark contrast to the competition. We have decades of combined experience on our staff, all focused on expungement and related matters. We also have a long track record of success and a sterling reputation in San Diego for providing customized, efficient, and effective services.
Contact Us Today for Immediate Record Expungement Assistance Near You!
At Record Expungement Attorney, we have the legal expertise and the undying commitment to the best interests of our clients it takes to successfully secure expungements, record sealing, and other similar record clearing actions for our clients.
We have had a presence in the San Diego Area for many years now, and we have built up a strong reputation for excellence and integrity with local communities. We understand the life impacts of having a criminal conviction, or even just an arrest, on your police record. And we know how to remove those obstacles for our clients by filing the right petitions, meeting all legal requirements and deadlines, and arguing persuasively before a judge at the relevant hearing.
Contact Record Expungement Attorney anytime 24/7/365 by calling 619-432-7544 for a free, no obligation consultation! Or, feel free to meet us in person at our office, located at 501 West Broadway, Suite #800, in San Diego, California.