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What is Expungement?
Expungement is a term that refers to a court-ordered procedure where the legal record of an arrest or criminal conviction gets “sealed,” or, in other words, erased in the eyes of the law.
It’s important to note that a criminal conviction record can’t be fully erased from public view in California. Instead, expungement alters the record to read “dismissed in the interest of justice.”
Eligibility for an Expungement
To be eligible for an expunged conviction, the requirements vary from state to state. Under California Penal Code, expungement is available for defendants convicted of misdemeanors or felonies as long as:
- You have successfully completed probation for the criminal offense. • The person who was convicted either did not serve time in state prison for the criminal offense or served time in state prison, but they would have served in the county jail if the crime was committed after California’s implementation of Realignment.
- You were convicted in a state court. California criminals convicted of federal crimes are not eligible for expungement.
- You don’t have any outstanding court fines.
You are not eligible for expungement in California if:
- You have pending criminal charges against you
- You are on probation for a criminal offense
- You are serving time for a criminal offense
- You are convicted of certain sex crimes involving children
What Does Expungement Do?
Under California Penal Code Section 1203.4, an expungement releases a defendant from all penalties and disabilities that arise from the criminal conviction. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that once expound, and the conviction no longer has to be disclosed on job applications.
How Long Does Expungement Take?
Across the United States, expungement usually takes between 90-120 days. There are several factors that may impact the length of time an expungement will take to make it through the court system, including:
- The amount of time between the conviction and when you file the expungement. • Whether or not the case is in the courthouse’s current computer system. • Whether or not the case is a felony or misdemeanor.
- The complexity of the case.
Filing for Expungement in California
When you are ready to petition the court for expungement, here are the steps you should take:
- Contact an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process and ensure you have all the required documentation.
- Obtain a copy/copies of your criminal record. You can obtain these Fromm your attorney, parole or probation officer, or court where you were convicted. You can also obtain a copy from the California Office of Attorney General website.
- Completed probation. California expungement law requires that probation is complete before the district attorney will grant the expungement. If you are still currently serving probation, you can also petition the court to end it early.
- Pay all fines, fees, and restitution related to your case.
- For a felony conviction, petition the court to reduce your charges.
- Once all of the necessary paperwork is complete, you may file for expungement. It’s important to ensure all forms are filed in the county you were convicted in.
- Meet with your lawyer to prepare for your expungement hearing.
- Attend your expungement hearing. These hearings are commonly held before a judge without a jury. The hearings are brief and only take about 10 minutes. Make sure you are on time and dressed professionally. During the hearing, the court will consider your expungement eligibility based on:
- Your charges
- Your parole status
- Any additional convictions you might have
- Your ability to find and keep a job
- Community service and involvement.
- If your petition is accepted, you will receive a signed order from a California Superior Court Judge that documents the dismissal of your case and criminal conviction. If your petition is denied, you can ask the judge why and find out what is required in order to have your petition accepted. Six months after the petition is denied, and you have made all necessary changes, you can re-file your petition. If your petition was denied because you are not eligible for expungement, it’s a good idea to speak with your attorney about your other options.
If you’re looking for an experienced law firm to help with your expungement case, count on the experienced team of attorneys at Windsor Troy. Windsor Troy has helped thousands of clients with their immigration, criminal, personal injury, and employment law cases by providing excellent legal services.