Why Expungement Can Help With Employment
Living with a criminal record with one or more convictions in California can be a frustrating experience. Given the prevalence of employer-conducted background checks, it becomes much more difficult to get a job - and even more difficult to get a good job. Applying for enrollment at educational institutions, for a professional license, or even for an apartment lease can also be met with roadblocks.
One solution to this dilemma is to seek an expungement of one or more convictions from your record. But what exactly can expungement do for you? Why expungement?
At Record Expungement Attorney, we can assist you in finding out if you qualify for a California expungement and, if so, in pursuing one. We can also help you understand the benefits and limitations of an expungement and what other options there might be.
To learn more, contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 619-432-7544 for a free legal consultation. Or, stop by at our office located at 501 West Broadway, Suite 800, in San Diego, California, for an in-person consultation.
How Is "Expungement" Defined in California?
An "expungement" is really just another name for a dismissal under California law. Technically, the word "expunge" means to "erase or remove entirely," but what is removed is the information on your criminal record saying "convicted of," which is replaced by "dismissed." Thus, it does not simply erase a record in the sense of leaving it blank, but in the sense of eliminating the conviction.
Today, a federal expungement is virtually unheard of. Almost all expungements are for state level offenses and must be done in accord with state law. And federal immigration policy does not have to recognize a conviction as being expunged and therefore not take it into account in immigration matters. Only when the conviction is shown to have been wrongful to begin with does immigration take note.
Expungement law varies greatly from state to state. In California, you can get adult criminal records expunged for most offenses, including felonies, misdemeanors, and even mere infractions. You can get juvenile records sealed, but not expunged. And adult arrest records can also be sealed, while convictions alone are "expunged" as such.
Also, in California, an expungement does not take a criminal record out of the public domain (like record sealing would), so it doesn't prevent background checks from being run on you. BUT, most background checks won't turn up anything because they usually search for convictions only. A full background check would show you had the charge dismissed in accord with PC 1203.4, California's expungement statute.
Why Seek an Expungement?
There are many different reasons why people seek a California expungement. The benefits to be gained are many. And while an expungement will not "do everything," it does do many things for you that are very valuable and on a very practical level.
Here are the top 12 reasons why people seek expungements:
- To Get a Better Job
The number one motive by far for petitioning for an expungement is to improve your chances of landing a good job. These days, background checks are routine and fast, easy, and inexpensive for employers to conduct. Thus, it's much more important today to have as clean of a police record as possible when applying for a job.
Background checks run by employers are often in "truncated" form, showing only convictions. But some will also show dismissals and arrests. Either way, employers on average are more willing to hire someone with an expunged conviction than someone whose conviction is still showing on their criminal history.
Also, under PC 1203.4, you can legally answer that you were never convicted of an offense that has been expunged from the record. Employers are not even legally allowed to hold such convictions against you when considering your job application, and many of them don't even wish to do so. Plus, employers are not permitted to even ask you about an expunged offense during a job interview.
- Applying for a Professional License
Probably the second most common reason for seeking an expungement is that you are getting ready to apply for a state-issued professional license. Without such a license, you cannot legally operate many business types in the state of California. If you've been training for a specific career, a conviction can effectively end it before it starts or cause you to lose an existing license. But expungement can often help you get a license approved or reinstated.
But also note that licensing boards and agencies in California can and normally will consider expunged criminal convictions when you apply to them for a license. You legally have to disclose the fact of your conviction and expungement to them.
But knowing you finished probation and completed your sentence, and were able to qualify for an expungement, combined with other favorable factors, is often enough to get you approved for a license where otherwise you would not be.
- Joining Professional Organizations
In many professions, not just a license but also membership in industry standard-setting organizations is necessary to ensure your business will flourish to its full potential.
Those who are able to get a license, based in part on having gotten a conviction expunged, will likely also be able to get approved for membership with various important professional organizations.
- College Enrollment
Without a college degree, a lot of opportunities in life may close up to you. And getting a grad school diploma can be even more beneficial. But a criminal record can often bar you from admission to institutions of higher learning.
Plus, you may become ineligible for student loans and grants, without which you can't afford to attend school. And convictions can make you ineligible for honors and awards regardless of your grades. But expungement can often overcome all of these educational obstacles.
- Welfare Assistance
Although a lot of welfare aid, like food stamps, is based on federal programs, it is usually administered through the state. That means that you won't likely qualify for such assistance if you have a criminal record with convictions on it. But expungement can often reverse that and allow you needed assistance.
- Getting an Apartment Lease
Landlords will run background checks as frequently as employers, and they may fear for the safety of other tenants or for their ability to collect rent or keep their property from getting badly damaged if they rent to a convicted felon or even someone with a misdemeanor offense on his/her record.
Also, landlords may require higher deposits, higher rent, and shorter leases (or month by month with no lease) of tenants with a police record. But expungement often eliminates all of these extra burdens and obstacles so you can find an apartment to lease that is to your liking.
- Getting a Loan
Not only are student loans more difficult to get approved for when you have a conviction on your record, almost all loans are less available to you. You may not be able to get a bank loan for a mortgage or a car, for example. And you may be left with only high-interest, high-fee loans as your only option. Again, expungement normally corrects that situation.
- Insurance Approval / Rates
You can often be denied insurance of various kinds, or charged higher premiums, if you have a criminal record. Whether or not it's fair, that's generally the way it is. Car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, and more could all be affected. This is yet one more possible benefit of expungement.
- Volunteer Work
Sometimes, expungement can help you get accepted as a volunteer with certain charitable organizations, whereas, your help would otherwise not be accepted.
Adoption agencies and state-run orphanages will often not permit someone with an un-expunged past criminal conviction to adopt a child. It's possible you could still be accepted, but your chances are much higher post-expungement.
- Witness Credibility
Expungement prevents your credibility as a witness from legally being impeached during most trials. If you are the one being charged with a criminal defense, it won't help. But if it's a civil suit against you or if it's a criminal case against someone else, expungement lets your testimony count.
- Personal Satisfaction
Finally, it is undeniable that a major motive for seeking expungement with many is simple the personal satisfaction of "putting the past behind them." It gives a feeling that the past offense has been "dealt with" finally, and it may also cause family and friends to look more favorably on you, thus having "social benefits."
What Can't Expungement Do?
So far we've focused on the benefits of expungement which lead many to seek one. But you should also be aware of the limitations of expungements and of the eligibility requirements for getting one so you won't seek expungement only to be disappointed.
First of all, expungement does not (as we've mentioned above) completely eliminate a criminal record. It simply replaces a conviction with a dismissal. Second, realize that only convictions can be expunged - arrest records have to be sealed through a completely different process (which we at Record Expungement Attorney can also handle.)
Next, understand that expungement won't do you any good if you do qualify for it. Here are the basic requirements:
- You must not have been convicted in federal court, but California state court.
- You must not have served an actual prison time for the conviction.
- You must have successfully completed your sentence, including the probationary period.
- You cannot be currently charted with a new criminal offense nor serving a sentence for an offense subsequent to the one you want expunged.
- You cannot expunge a conviction for most sex crimes committed against a minor.
Now, there are a few exception clauses that have to mentioned. First, you can apply for early termination of probation at the same time you apply for expungement and often speed up the process that way. Second, you can get certain felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors so that you would have served only jail time instead of prison time had you been originally convicted of a misdemeanor. In that case, prison time no longer bars you from petitioning for expungement.
But even if you get an expungement, be aware of what it cannot do:
- You still have to answer "yes" to the question of whether you were ever convicted of an expunged offense if applying for a professional license, a police job, a position as a public official, or for a job as a state lotto worker.
- Expungement will not cause a suspended or revoked California driver's license to be reinstated.
- Expungement does not restore lost Second Amendment rights.
- You still have to register as a sex offender even if a relevant sex offense has been expunged.
- An expunged offense still counts as a prior in any future criminal convictions. And it still counts as a strike under California's Three Strikes Law.
There are ways to obtain relief from some of the things an expungement can't do by getting a certificate of factual innocence, a certificate of rehabilitation, or a governor's pardon. These avenues might restore lost gun rights and in some cases can cancel sex registration requirements.
It can take one or two months to get a petition for expungement approved following an expungement hearing. And it can take two or three weeks after that for you to see your record change in any background checks. In San Diego County, it costs $60 for misdemeanors and $120 for felonies to file for expungement (per conviction), and in L.A. County it costs $120 either way.
Overall, expungement is eminently worthwhile for most people who qualify for it. It's worth waiting a few months and paying for a lawyer and paying modest fee.
Contact Us Today for Help!
At Record Expungement Attorney, we can help you understand who can get an expungement and when, how, and why an expunging a criminal conviction from your record would be beneficial. We can also guide you through the entire expungement process from beginning to end - and we have a strong track record of successfully getting expungement petitions approved for our clients!
Contact our expungement attorney anytime 24/7, 365 days a year, by calling 619-432-7544 for a free, no obligation consultation on the details of your case! Or, stop by our office location at 501 West Broadway, Suite #800, in San Diego, CA.