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 does expungement mean?
Why should you expunge your record?
How do you know if you can expunged your record?
Can a probation violation make you ineligible for expungement?
Can you still expunge your record while on probation?
Can you still do an expungemen if you have multiple cases?
What is our expungement process?
What WILL expunging your California criminal record do for you?
What WON'T expunging your Calornia criminal record do for you?expungement in California do for you?
What does expungement mean?
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, making it invisible to landlords and a almost all employers. 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.
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 should you expunge your record in California?
The internet has changed everything. It has changed the way we shop, pay our bills, and interact with friends. It has also made it a lot easier for people to quickly run a criminal background check on you. Over the last decade more than 10,000 privately owned criminal background databases have launched online, all of which make profits from showing your past mistakes to potential employers, landlords and lenders. Luckily, you are able to protect yourself today by having your criminal record expunged.
A vast majority of employers and lenders now conduct a criminal background prior to working with you. Meaning that any criminal blemishes on your record can hinder you from supporting your family. After the expungement process has been completed, you will then be protected per the California Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the expunged case will no longer display on your background check. In this fast digital age it is more important then ever to clear up your criminal history. Expungement relief gives you a "fresh start" in life, allowing you to forget the past and embrace the future.
How do you know if you can expunge your California record?
If you have been convicted of any crime in the state of California, then you are elgible to expunge the criminal case if you meet the following criteria:
- 1Your case was a state court case, NOT a federal case. Only state convictions are elgible for expungement (NOTE: almost all criminal convictions occur in state court, so if you are unsure, it is very likely your conviction occurred in state court).
- 2Your 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.
- 3You 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 may still be able to assist you, check out our early termination of your probation service.
- 4You must have satisfied all the requirements of your sentence (fines, restitution, mandatory programs, community service, classes, etc.).
- 5You 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. We specialize in handling expungement cases wherein probation violation(s) are present.
- 6You 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). Furthermore, simple driving infractions also cannot be expunged (e.g., speeding tickets, failure to stop at a stop sign, etc.).
Can a probation violation make you inelgible for expungement?
If you has a probation violation (i.e., had a violation hearing and were found to be in violation), or had a new violation of law while on probation, you are still eligible for an expungment pursuant 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:
- 1Your performance, and general behavior, while on probation.
- 2The egregiousness of the violation.
- 3The seriousness of your original conviction.
- 4Your entire criminal record (do you have an extensive record).
- 5All the supporting evidence we can provide to the Court that shows that you deserve expungment of your recored, such as: how the record is holding you back from securing gainful employment; your need to provide for your children or other family members; your general involvement and standing in your community. It is important for us to show the judge why you deserve expungement, and we pride ourselves in finding the unique details in your life that will enable us to build the strongest arguments for your case.
Many of our clients have had probation violations on their cases, and we really enjoy the unique challenges that each case presents us with. We work with you to understand your life and your background, allowing us to tailor our arguments around the individual details of your life.
Can you still expunge your record if you are on probation?
Yes, you may still be able to expunge your criminal record if you are on probation. Under California Penal Code 1203.3 a motion for early termination of your probation may be filed at any time with the Court. If the presiding Judge finds it to be in the interest of justice to terminate your probation early, we can then ask that same judge to then expunge the underlying convictiion. In over 95% of our case, both of these requests can be made at the same hearing. Although there are no time restrictions on when a PC 1203.3 early termination motion can be filed, we often suggest that our clients complete at least 1/2 of their probationary term before attempting early termination of probation, as this will increase your chances at success. However, one year after the conviction date is the earliest a criminal convicition can be expunged, meaning you should typically wait to file for early termination of probation until after your one year mark in probation. It is important that you have completed all sentence requirements, including: payment of all fines and restitution, participation in all classes and programs, and community service. Having your probation terminated early, and your record cleared, will allow you to put your mistake behind you right away and allow you to fully move forward with your life. View our early termination of probation page.
Can you still do an expungement if you have multiple cases?
Yes, 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 expungemen 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:
- 1We will learn about all of your case details and appropriate personal details that may aid your case.
- 2We will analyze your case details to determine if in fact your conviction is eligible for expungement relief in the state of California.
- 3We will research all applicable current state laws and regulations.
- 4We will prepare the expungement moving papers to be filed with the court.
- 5We will file all the appropriate paperwork within the required timeframes, and will serve the prosecuting agency 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).
- 6We will pay all filing fees and court costs (this is included in our fixed prices).
- 7We will reach out to the prosecuting attorney's office to attempt to get their endorsement of our expungement petition when advisable.
- 8We will respond to any opposition from the prosecuting attorney, either oral or written.
- 9We 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.
- 10We will follow up with you following the hearing, providing you with a signed court order showing that your conviction has been expunged, if the matter is granted.
- 11We 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.
- 12We will write letters to potential employers explaining the expungement process at your request.
- 13The whole process typically takes only 6-12 weeks. The courts take cases on a first come first serve basis, so the sooner your start the quicker your case will be completed.
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, and we have successful won thousands of expungement cases for our clients in California. So when you sign up with us, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.
What will expunging your California criminal record 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:
- 1Employers cannot asked about an expunged conviction.
- 2Your expunged conviction will not show up almost all employer background checks (some government entities have the right to dig deeper). You can view this article that explains what will show on your background check after expungement.
- 3You can truthfully and legally answer "NO" on nearly all job applications when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime.
- 4You can greatly increase your earning capacity by becoming eligible for more employment opportunities.
- 5You become eligible for more types of professional licenses and certificates.
- 6Reducing a "wobbler" felony conviction to a misdemeanor can restore certain rights such as gun ownership. See list of California felony "wobbler" offenses.
- 7You can become eligible for more student loans.
- 8You can become eligible for housing assistance.
- 9You can tell friends and family that you have not been convicted of a crime.
- 10You have the satisfaction of forgetting the past for good and moving forward into a more positive future.
What won't expunging your California criminal record do for you?
There are still situations where the underlying conviction can and will be used against you moving forward.
- 1An 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.
- 2If 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.
- 3You 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.
- 4Expungement 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. However, once a case has been expunged it is against the law in California for that criminal case to appear on a background check ran by and employer.