Types of Record Expungements in Caifornia

Expungement is the removal of a criminal conviction from your police record and the replacing of that conviction with a dismissal. Every expungement offers the same basic benefits, which for the most part are focused on making your background checks run by potential employers and others "look better" so that opportunities don't close up to you based on a past criminal conviction.

But there is also variety among types of record expungement in California. Felonies and misdemeanors aren't dealt with in exactly the same way, and a DUI expungement might work a little differently than expunging, say, a mere infraction. When you seek out an experienced expungement attorney, be sure you get a lawyer who is experienced in the exact type of expungement you want to pursue.

At Record Expungement Attorney, we can assist you in petitioning for any type of California expungement you can name. We have many years of experience across the full gamut of expungement types and we will know how to put you in the most favorable position possible to get your expungement approved.

Contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 619-432-7544 for a free legal consultation and immediate attention to your case!

Felony Expungement in California

If you're wondering whether or not a felony conviction can possibly be expunged from a criminal record under California expungement law, the answer is, yes, there are many instances where it can be. But whether or not a particular felony is eligible for expungement will depend on a variety of factors.

If a felony conviction led to the serving of actual prison time, then it is NOT eligible for expungement. And there are some sex crimes, especially sex offenses against minors, that also are not allowed to ever be expunged. However, if you served only county jail time and/or probation, then your felony conviction is likely eligible to be expunged.

Violent felonies in general cannot be expunged. But non-violent felonies often can be. In many cases, a "wobbler" felony where the crime could have been charged as either a misdemeanor or felony (though it actually ended up being charged as a felony) can be successfully expunged.

Under PC 1203.4, you have to have completed your full sentence before you can get a conviction expunged. For many felony sentences, that means paying fines as high as $10,000 or more, spending time in county jail, paying heavy court fees and restitution payments, doing numerous hours of community service, and then successfully finishing probation. 

You can often apply for early termination of probation to help you file for expungement months to years earlier, but otherwise, you must complete the full probationary term.

Many times, you have to first file for sentence reduction to turn a felony into a misdemeanor before then immediately filing to expunge it. Under PC 17, wobblers can often be reduced to misdemeanors in preparation for expungement. But you can't qualify for sentence reduction if you served time in state prison for your conviction. 

There are a few other ways to pursue sentence reduction as well, such as if your felony would have been charged as a misdemeanor prior to Realignment.

It normally takes 2 or 3 months to go through a sentence reduction process, if one is needed, and then 3 to 4 months to get the conviction expunged from start to finish.

Misdemeanor Expungement in California

Most, but not all, misdemeanor level offenses qualify for expungement under California law. Remember that only prison time, not jail time, excludes a conviction from being expunged - and most misdemeanors result in either no actual incarceration time or a county jail term only.

Typically, a California misdemeanor conviction will have a sentence of up to 12 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Often, the jail time is shortened or eliminated in exchange for community service or other plea deal arrangements. But you have to satisfy all the demands of your sentence before you are eligible to file for expungement of a misdemeanor offense.

Usually, misdemeanors get 2 to 3 years of probation. So you have to either finish the probation period or get it approved for early termination, at earliest around halfway through.  If there was not probation, then you have to wait one year after the conviction before filing for expungement - otherwise you can file the very next day after your probation ends.

Some people mistakenly believe that with misdemeanors you automatically get the charge expunged after so many years. That is simply false. There is no "auto-expunge process" in California. You have to file or else the conviction will remain permanently on your record for life.

Expungement of Infractions in California

Beginning in 2011, PC 1203.4 was amended so as to allow infractions that are not also traffic violations to be expunged from one's record. An "infraction" is defined as a relatively minor offense that cannot be punished in any other way beyond a fine.

Before 2011, you could expunge a misdemeanor or a felony but never an infraction. Now, it might not seem like a big deal to have an infraction on your record, but consider that many misdemeanor offenses are reduced to infractions as part of plea deals. That means that an infraction on your record might be viewed negatively by a potential employer, if not as negatively as a greater conviction.

At the time the original expungement statute was written in California, the only possible infractions were traffic violations. That's why infractions were banned from being expunged. But today, there are many non-traffic related infractions.

Note that the new infraction expungement law applies retroactively, so you can petition to expunge an infraction even if you received it back when infractions were not allowed to be expunged.

DUI Expungements

A DUI conviction will cost you years of use of your California driver's license, higher car insurance rates for many years to come, and incur great difficulty at times in finding gainful employment. A wet reckless charge, which DUIs are often plea bargained down to, can have similar effects.

Some people think that a DUI will fall off your police record automatically after a period of time. That's not the case. What people probably are confusing is the fact that there's a 10-year look back period for DUI priors, so that a second DUI would really count as a second one and be punished more severely. But that's a totally different issue. The DUI stays on the police record itself permanently unless you get it expunged.

DUI result in probation terms just like other crimes. To be eligible for DUI expungement, you have to fulfill all of the obligations of your DUI sentence, including paying fines in full, making any required restitution payments, doing community service, spending perhaps some time in county jail, attending your DUI School classes or other state-required courses, avoiding driving illegally while your license is suspended, and installing an ignition interlock device when required.

But you also have to finish your DUI probationary period successfully. You may be able to apply for early termination of probation as well, if you have a good (not to say perfect) probation history. But whether or not to grant early termination is at the judge's sole discretion.

Once probation is complete, you can immediately apply for DUI expungement, there is no "waiting period" as some think.

Most DUIs are misdemeanors, so you can look at the section on misdemeanor expungement above OR at the section on felony expungement for felony DUIs.

Whether you were convicted of DUI alcohol or DUI drugs, of a DUI based on simply being "under the influence" (VC 23152a) or based on a BAC of .08% or higher (VC 23152b), you can still apply for expungement. And you can still apply if you were convicted of a DUI as a commercial driver, which given other favorable factors, might help you reclaim a lost career that requires the use of a CDL.

Domestic Violence Expungements

If you were convicted in the past of a domestic violence crime, either misdemeanor or felony, you can still be eligible for expungement if you did not serve state prison time for the offense. Felony domestic violence convictions would first need to go through a sentence reduction process, but oftentimes, they can.

There are limitations and difficulties in getting domestic violence arrest records sealed in many instances. (But that can often be done as well.) But realize that the restrictions that apply to sealing domestic violence arrest records do not apply to expunging domestic violence convictions.

But also realize that the likelihood or even possibility of getting any conviction expunged is tied in part to the nature of the offense. A serious violent felony often can't be expunged, whether a "DV" crime or not. But even though the word "violence" is in the term "domestic violence," many of these offenses do not result in serious injury to another person or even any injury at all - and they certainly can be expunged.

Marijuana Crimes Expungement

Since the passage of Prop 64, which legalized the possession, use, and transport of small quantities of marijuana and marijuana products for personal use only - marijuana crimes may seem less important than they once did. But the fact is, many people are still convicted of crimes involving marijuana. Most of these offenses are eligible for expungement.

Prop 64 also provided that those convicted of certain marijuana crimes as felonies in the past can now petition to get them reduced to misdemeanors. It's possible to get a conviction for cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale, or actual sale reduced from felony to misdemeanor, which makes it easier to get the charge expunged.

Theft Crimes Expungement

Many misdemeanors and infractions for theft crimes, such as shoplifting, can also be expunged. Quite often, people made a rash or impulsive move once when they were young, and that mistake has followed them for years or even decades.

Even if an attempted petty theft or a mere infraction theft violation is all that occurred, it can become a serious problem when it keeps coming up on criminal background checks throughout life.

An experienced expungement attorney can get most misdemeanor and infraction level theft convictions turned into dismissals without much problem. Felony theft crimes and fraud crimes are more difficult, but some felony theft crimes can also be expunged, even if they first have to be reduced to misdemeanors.

Other Record Improvement Actions

California law also provides for a number of other, non-expungement, record clearing legal processes. Chief among these is arrest record sealing. If you were arrested but never charged formally with a crime, acquitted, had your case dismissed in court, won on appeal, or completed a PC 1000 drug diversion program, you can usually qualify for adult arrest record sealing.

Record sealing takes the arrest off the public record so it won't show up on background checks. NOTE: a separate record sealing process must be followed to seal juvenile arrest/criminal records.

As drug diversion programs end in the dismissal of the charge, if successfully completed, there is no need for expungement in such a case because the case was already dismissed. But you could still get the arrest record sealed.

The other major course of action to take in cleaning up a criminal record is to seek a certificate of rehabilitation and/or governor's pardon. Few get a governor's pardon, but you automatically apply for one once you get a certificate of rehabilitation. 

Those who served time in state prison for a felony conviction can't get either an expungement or arrest record sealing, so they often seek a certificate of rehabilitation instead, which states that in the opinion of the court they have been rehabilitated from their past conduct. You have to wait 7 to 10 years after completing probation to be eligible to petition for a certificate of rehabilitation. But if you get one, it can do much to alleviate the impacts of your conviction(s).

Contact Us Today for Help!

At Record Expungement Attorney, we can assist you with any and all types of California expungement processes from beginning to end. We have a strong track record of successfully pursuing expungements for our clients in San Diego County and throughout all of Southern California. What we've done for others, we can do for you!

Contact Record Expungement Attorney today by calling 619-432-7544 for a free, no obligation consultation on the details of your case. We are standing by 24/7/365 to take your call!

Or, feel free to meet with our expungment attorney in person at our office located at 501 West Broadway, Suite #800, in San Diego, CA.