Fresh Start Law Center - California Criminal Expungement Law Firm

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California Expungment Process Overview

This is a quick overview of expungement law in California, and what an expungement can and cannot do for your life.You can use the blue links directly below to jump to a desired section or scroll down and start reading from the beginning.

What is expungement?
Why is expungement important?

Who is eligible for expugnement?

What if you violated probation?

What if you are still on probation?

What if you have several convictions?

What is our expungement process?

What will expungement in California do for you?

What won't expungement in California do for you?

What is criminal record expungement?

Expunging your criminal record in California is the process of petitioning the state court where your conviction took place under California Penal Code 1203.4 to re-open the case, set aside your guilty plea, your Nolo contendere (no contest) plea, or factual finding of guilt, and to set aside the conviction and dismiss the case. If the expungement petition is granted you will no longer be considered convicted of the crime by the state of California, and your criminal record will be permanently changed to display a dismissal rather than a conviction. Subsequently, once the conviction is expunged by the court you can truthfully tell employers, your family, and all other interested parties that you have not previously been convicted of a crime. Furthermore, the expunged conviction will no longer show on most employer background checks. 

Criminal Database Updating After Expungement:

All criminal databases used for employment background checks, both private and public, will update automatically within 30 days after the expungement is complete. You should never pay a company, or a law firm, for any service that claims to "expedite" this updating process. Learn the truth, protect yourself here. 

Why is expungement important in California?

Until fairly recently with advent of the internet and the subsequent development of thousands of privately owned criminal background databases, a person's criminal history was unlikely to be discovered by a potential employer, or anybody else for that matter.

Even though criminal records were always a matter of public record, most employers did not devote the time to manually sifting through stacks of paper criminal records at the local courthouse. Today a thorough background check can be done with the stroke of keyboard, and these background checks are used by potential employers, potential landlords, potential lenders, and anybody else that wants to get a grasp on your history before initiating a relationship with you. If anybody runs a standard commercial background check on you after the expungement process has been completed, the chances are the case and the dismissed conviction will not appear on the report. Consequently, in this down economy and tought job market it is more important than ever to address your criminal history. Expungement relief gives you a "fresh start" in life, allowing you to forget the past and embrace the future.

Who is eligible for expungement in California?

If you have been convicted of an infraction, misdemeanor or felony in the state of California you are entitled to expunge your criminal conviction if you meet the following criteria:

  1. You were charged and convicted in state court, NOT federal court. Only state convictions are available for expungement.
  2. Your sentence did not involve going to state prison. County jail and holding cells are NOT state prison. If you did go to state prison than you may be eligible for a California certificate of rehabilitation.
  3. You have successfully completed probation (informal or formal), or if you were not given probation one year must pass since your conviction date. However, if you are still on probation we can petition the court for early termination of your probation.
  4. You must have satisfied all the requirements of your sentence (fines, restitution, mandatory programs, community service, classes, etc.).
  5. You did not violate any of the terms of your probation (that the court is aware of). However, even if you had violations we can still help you get your conviction expunged, it might just require a little extra work.
  6. You are not currently charged with another criminal offense, on probation for another criminal offense, or serving a sentence for another criminal offense.


It must also be noted that there are several crimes that have been carved out in PC 1203.4 that are not available for expungement relief, all of which involve serious sex offenses committed against children. They include the following sections of the California Penal Code: 286(c), 288, 288.5, 289(j), and 261.5(d).

California Expungement Free Assessment

 

What if you violated probation?

If you violated any terms of your probation (i.e., had a violation hearing and were found to be in violation), yet still went on to successfully complete your probation, you can still seek an expungment under PC 1203.4. However, you lose your entitlement to the relief and it is up to the discretion of the court to grant the expungment. The court will look as the following factors when deciding whether to grant the expungement:

  1. Your overall performance and behavior while on probation.
  2. The seriousness of the probation violation.
  3. The seriousness of the underlying conviction.
  4. Your criminal record (are you a repeat offender).
  5. All the evidence we can provide that demonstrates you are deserving of expungment relief, such as: your inability to find employment; your role in taking care of your dependants and family; your positive role in your community, or in the lives of those you come in contact with; and your desire to forget the past, and embrace a positive future.

 

Our law firm thrives on these more challenging cases, and we will put together the strongest case possible for you. We will get to know you and your background, allowing us to find, and highlight, all your positive attributes for the judge.

What if you are still on probation?

Expungement relief may still be available to you even if you are currently on probation. We are able to petition the court under California Penal Code 1203.3 for early termination of your probation. If the eartly termination petition is granted we can then petition the court for expungement of your underlying conviction at the same time. Although a PC 1203.3 petition for early termination of probation can be filed at any time during your probationary period, we suggest that you complete at least half of your probation term before the petition is filed, as this will greatly increase your chances of getting the petition granted by the judge. Also you must have satisfied all of your other sentencing requirements, such as fines, restitution, participation in mandatory classes and programs, and community service. Petitioning the court for early termination, and subsequent expungement of your underlying conviction, allows you to quickly forget about a mistake you made and move on with your life without the need to wait until the full probationary term has been fully completed. View our early termination of probation page.

What if you have several convictions?

Each conviction must be handled separately and a petition for dismissal would need to be filed for each conviction you desire to have expunged. Each conviction and petition will be handled by our firm and by the court as completely separate cases. However, if you sign up with us to expunge more than one conviction all subsequent convictions will be substantially discounted. View our multiple conviction discount page.

What is our expungement process?

Once you contact our law firm and sign up for one our California expungement services we (David Huffman, or one of our experienced attorneys) will move through the following steps:

  1. We will learn about all of your case details and appropriate personal details that may aid your case.
  2. We will obtain your records from the court where the conviction occurred if necessary.
  3. We will analyze your case details to determine if in fact your conviction is eligible for expungement relief in the state of California.
  4. We will research all applicable current state laws and regulations.
  5. We will prepare the expungement petition, including a detailed declaration when required.
  6. We will file all the appropriate paperwork within the required timeframes, and will serve the prosecuting attorney as required by Penal Code 1203.4. We will also file a petition with the court to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor if applicable (if your felony is California "wobbler" offense).
  7. We will pay all filing fees and court costs (this is included in our fixed prices).
  8. We will reach out to the prosecuting attorney's office to attempt to get their endorsement of our expungement petition when advisable.
  9. We will respond to any opposition from the prosecuting attorney, either oral or written.
  10. We will attend all expungement hearings at the courthouse to argue your case in front of the judge on your behalf. 99% of the time you will not be required to attend any hearings.
  11. We will follow up with you following the hearing, providing you with a signed court order showing that your conviction has been expunged, if the petition is granted.
  12. We maintain constant contact with you throughout the process and provide status updates on the case regularly. We are always here to answer any questions you might have along the way.
  13. We will write letters to potential employers explaining the expungement process at your request.
  14. The whole process only takes 1 to 6 months, but usually can be completed within 2 months. The courts take cases on a first come first serve basis.

 

We believe that it is important to seek a knowledgeable attorney's guidance through this complex process, which will ensure that each step is handled properly, guaranteeing you the best possible chance at success. Fresh Start Law Center is one of the few California law firms that specializes solely in California expungement laws. So when you sign up with us, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.

California Expungement Free Assessment


What will expungement in California do for you?

Not only will expunging your previous criminal record have positive intangible benefits, such as peace of mind, it will also provide the following tangible benefits as well:

  1. In almost all cases private employers cannot ask about convictions that were dismissed under Penal Code 1203.4, nor can a conviction that was dismissed be considered for employment purposes.
  2. Your expunged conviction will not show up on most employer background checks.
  3. You can truthfully and legally answer "NO" on private sector job applications when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime.
  4. You can greatly increase your earning capacity by becoming eligible for more employment opportunities.
  5. You become eligible for more types of professional licenses and certificates.
  6. Reducing a "wobbler" felony conviction to a misdemeanor can restore certain rights such as gun ownership, which would also allow you to become a peace officer. See list of California felony "wobbler" offenses.
  7. You can become eligible for more student loans.
  8. You can become eligible for housing assistance.
  9. You can tell friends and family that you have not been convicted of a crime.
  10. You have the satisfaction of forgetting the past for good and moving forward into a more positive future.

What won't expungement in California do for you?

There are still situations where the underlying conviction can and will be used against you moving forward.

  1. An expunged case can still be used against you in the sentencing of a subsequent case. For example a case that serves as your first strike, would still be your first strike for sentencing purposes if you committed another crime.
  2. If we are not able to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor under Penal Code 17(b), then your gun ownership rights will not be restored when your felony is expunged. Consequently, you cannot become a law enforcement officer if ever convicted of a felony and the felony was not reduced.
  3. You must disclose the previous conviction, and expungement, in three very narrow circumstances as dictated by Penal Code 1203.4: (1) If contracting with the California State Lottery Commission, (2) When applying for public office (if you ran for governor, mayor, etc.), (3) When applying for a state license.
  4. Expungement does not seal your records, it removes the conviction from your record and shows as a dismissed case, and consequently takes the finding of guilt away.

 

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