EXPUNGEMENT OF CALIFORNIA CONVICTIONS
You Don't Always Need to Be Looked at as Guilty
Having a criminal record in California makes life more difficult. A criminal record can limit you from getting the job you want, obtaining housing, getting professional licenses, legally owning a firearm, qualifying for government programs, receiving student loans, and many other opportunities which would otherwise be available to you.
To make matters worse, criminal records in California are typically available to the public without even needing a formal California background check. Often, anybody with a connection to the Internet can find your California criminal record. Fortunately, California law permits the expungement of both felony and misdemeanor convictions, with the main requirement of not having been sentenced to prison.
Expunging a California conviction results in the dismissal of your conviction, removing the conviction from your California criminal record. In other words, a California felony expungement reopens your criminal case and changes the result from a felony conviction to a dismissal.
Although a California expungement does not destroy your California criminal record entirely, it does result in the conviction no longer existing, permitting you to legally state that you have never been convicted of the crime. Further, recent California law has made it an “unlawful employment practice” for an employer with more than five employees to inquire about expunged convictions.
This Information Is For You
Since the majority of people reading this aren’t lawyers, we’ve tried to simplify the legal jargon on our website, so regular people may follow along and get the information needed to understand their rights. However, before we get started, we should be clear that some of this information can get complicated, and, in many cases, it’s best to seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
To help you understand your rights, our lawyers have developed a tool that can be helpful in figuring out your options. This tool can’t be perfectly accurate in every situation, but our lawyers have invested substantial time and resources working to make it as accurate as possible.
You can get started by using our Secure Eligibility Test, or you can give us a call at (844) 947-3732 to see if our legal staff is available for a free consultation. Be aware that our staff is often busy with current clients and a high volume of calls and appointments. If you’re serious about getting rid of your record, your best bet is to take our Secure Eligibility Test and then schedule an appointment to discuss your results and options.
Mr. Eastman serves as the firm’s managing partner, and is licensed to practice law in California, Oregon, and Texas.
Sam has helped thousands of clients expunge, seal, and set-aside records across the country, and has a passion for criminal justice reform. Previously, Mr. Eastman represented a number of corporate clients, focusing on tax law, mergers and acquisitions, and a variety of corporate transactions.
Mr. Eastman earned his JD and LLM from the University of San Diego School of Law, and his undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon.
Can You Expunge Your Convictions?
California law allows you to expunge both misdemeanor and felony convictions in many situations under PC 1203.4, but not everything qualifies. There are certain offenses that currently do not qualify to be expunged under California law, and you generally can’t have been sentenced to prison. In addition to meeting these requirements, you must have successfully completed probation and paid all fines, restitution, and other financial terms imposed by the court.
- General Requirements to Expunge a Conviction in Californiaexpand_more
The general requirements to expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction in California are discussed more below, but they include:
Successful completion of probation
Payment of all fines, costs, restitution, and other financial obligations
You were not sentenced to prison for the conviction you’re trying to expunge
No current charges or pending criminal proceedings
Some crimes, particularly sex offenses, are not eligible.
Note that California recently passed Assembly Bill No. 1115, which allows some offenders who were given prison sentences to expunge their records. This new exception is somewhat complicated and will be discussed in more detail below in the section over the prison sentence requirement.
- 1. You Successfully Completed Probationexpand_more
One of the very first requirements of PC 1203.4 requires that the “defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation,” but, if you’re still on probation, you can sometimes petition to terminate your probation early under PC 1203.3 and file for an expungement at the same time. We discuss early probation termination in greater detail below.
- 2. You Have No Pending Charges or Criminal Proceedingsexpand_more
Like most other states, California requires that you do not have any new, pending, or ongoing criminal proceedings. Simply, you must have any new criminal matters resolved prior to seeking expungement for existing criminal records. This concept should be easy to understand, but please feel free to reach out to us if you need clarification.
- 3. Payment of All Fines, Restitution and Other Financial Obligationsexpand_moreMost of the time, you must have paid all fines, costs, restitution, and other financial obligations to qualify for expungement. In certain situations, the judge may be persuaded to grant the expungement order anyways, but this is rarely done. This should be thought as a requirement for expunging a California conviction from your record.
- 4. You Weren't Sent to Prisonexpand_more
The most common requirement seeming to disqualify people from expunging convictions is that you cannot have been sentenced to California State Prison. However, since the passage of Assembly Bill No. 1115, there are certain situations some who have been sentenced to prison may still seek expungement under PC 1203.42. To use this new law, you must have been convicted prior to July 1, 2011, and it also only applies to certain types of offenses discussed below.Expungements for Felony Convictions Resulting in Prison
In 2011, California made significant changes to its felony sentencing rules, commonly known as “realignment” under California Penal Code 1170(h). The main change in “realignment” was that convictions for many non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual felony convictions, could now result in county jail sentences instead of state prison sentences. Since these sentencing rules were not available prior to July 1, 2011, the defendant may have been sentenced to county jail instead of prison and qualified for expungement.
To expunge a California felony conviction that resulted in a prison sentence, the following requirements must be met to qualify under PC 1203.42, including:
The sentencing for your felony conviction must have been prior to July 1, 2011
The felony conviction must otherwise qualify for realignment sentencing, meaning the offense must be one of about 500 felony offenses listed in PC 1170(h). There are many of these offenses which qualify under PC 1170(h), including those on this list
You cannot have been convicted of a sex crime requiring registration
You cannot have been convicted of a “Violent Crime” described by PC 667.5(c), and as a result
You cannot have a “Serious” felony conviction listed in PC 1192.7(c)
It cannot be a conviction for an “Excluded” offense, which can be found by taking a look at this list and
You must otherwise qualify for expungement, as California’s new law only modifies the requirement that you not be sentenced to California State Prison to qualify for expungement. The rest of the general qualifications for expungement still apply under PC 1203.42.
- 5. Which Crimes are Ineligible to be Expunged?expand_more
The following convictions cannot be expunged under PC 1203.4(b):
Ineligible Sex Offenses
Sodomy with a child under PC 286(b)
Lewd acts with a child under PC 288
Continuous sexual abuse of a child under PC 288.5
Forcible penetration under PC 289
Sexual exploitation of a minor under PC 311.3 or
Statutory rape under PC 261.5.
Ineligible Misdemeanor Vehicle Offenses
Disobeying a peace officer under VC 2800
Failure to stop and submit to an inspection under VC 2801 or
Secure load violations under VC 2803 insofar as it relates to a failure to stop.
In addition, PC 1203.4 does not apply to a number of traffic violations listed in subsections (a) through (e) of VC 12810.
- Early Probation Terminationexpand_more
If you’ve completed at least half of the term of your probation and have completed all of the other conditions of your sentence, the court has the discretion to terminate your probation early under PC 1203.3 and file a petition to expunge your record. This is a highly subjective process that gives the judge quite a bit of freedom in deciding to allow you to terminate your probation early.
The judge will likely consider quite a few different factors in making their ruling, but some of the more common factors considered in their decisions to terminate probations early include:
Your criminal history and overall criminal record
Signs of rehabilitation
How much of the probation term has been served
Any hardships that probation is causing you
The likelihood that you will reoffend and
The seriousness and nature of the crime.
Early probation termination has the added benefit of releasing you from your sentence, but it is typically more difficult than obtaining an expungement. In other words, if you’re successful in terminating your probation, you should be successful in obtaining an expungement as well.
How Can Expunging California Convictions Help You Get Ahead?
Expunging a conviction under California law allows you to legally state that you were not convicted of a crime, however, an expungement alone will not restore your firearm rights. To restore your firearm rights, you will need to also qualify to reduce a felony conviction to a dismissed misdemeanor under PC 17(b). A brief discussion of felony reductions is below, and in more detail on our California Firearm Rights Restoration page.
The two biggest issues our law firm’s clients encounter relate to obtaining employment and restoring firearm rights, so we’re going to discuss each.
- How Will Expunging My Conviction Help Me Get A Job?expand_more
Expunging a California conviction is one of the best ways to improve your chances of getting a job when you have a criminal record. Obtaining an expungement indicates that you’re no longer a “criminal” and releases you from the judgement of guilt. It allows you to legally state that you have not been convicted of the expunged offense.
An expungement in California does not destroy or remove your record completely from the public record like sealing an arrest. Instead, when you are granted an expungement, the court reopens the case, vacates your conviction and dismisses the charges. If accompanied with a felony reduction, it also reduces the actual offense and results in a dismissed misdemeanor instead of a felony conviction. Additionally, California has recently enacted a number of laws making it illegal to discriminate in hiring based on expunged records.
With the amendment of Section 432.7 of the California Labor Code, an employer may not ask a job applicant for information relating to an arrest that did not result in a conviction, may not ask about diversion programs, and may not even search for non-conviction records. This law prohibits information about non-convictions from being considered as a factor in any aspect of the employment process, however, employers may inquire into an arrest for which there is a pending trial. This new law considers pleas, verdicts, or findings of guilt to be convictions. Regarding juvenile records, employers are prohibited from asking applicants about a juvenile case regardless of result and may not use information from those cases as factors in any aspect of the employment process.
- Will Expunging My Felony Conviction Restore My Second Amendment Rightsexpand_more
Expunging a California felony conviction alone will not restore your firearm rights. However, when combined with a reduction under PC 17(b), your firearm rights will often be restored. The main additional requirement to reduce a conviction is that the offense is a “wobbler,” or a crime that could either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The list of “wobbler” offenses is pretty long, but we’ve prepared a list of many of the more common “wobbler” offenses here.
Not everybody with a California felony conviction can restore their constitutional right to own or possess firearms, but California’s laws are favorable when compared to most other states. It should be noted that you can almost never restore firearm rights based on federal convictions, and it can be very difficult if your Second Amendment rights were taken away due to a domestic violence conviction. For more information about federal firearm rights and domestic violence charges, the Department of Justice has resources you can find over domestic violence convictions.
We will go into more detail regarding restoring Second Amendment rights in California on our California Firearm Rights Restoration page, but restoration typically involves both state and federal law that should be handled by an experienced lawyer. The lawyers in our firm regularly handle complex firearm rights restoration issues, so a good first step in exploring whether you can restore your firearm rights would be to take our Secure Eligibility Test. Then, if appropriate, setting up a time to speak with our legal staff about how to proceed.
What You Need to Do to Get Rid of Your Record
If you are tired of having a criminal record hold you back, reach out to us by taking our Secure Eligibility Test or by giving us a call at (844) 947-3732. Our law firm has helped thousands of people with criminal records move on in life, leaving many of the negative effects of a criminal record behind. Our experienced attorneys and legal staff are here to help you figure out what criminal record clearing services best fit your needs, and then help you accomplish your goals. Using our secure, confidential Eligibility Test is the best way to get the process started.Some of the potential benefits of getting rid of your arrest record in California include:
Removing a finding of guilt and closing the case on your criminal record to help you get a better job
Becoming eligible for professional licenses you previously did not qualify for
Increased eligibility for student loans, housing assistance, and government programs
Increased eligibility for student loans, housing assistance, and government programs
Improving your ability to obtain higher-paying job opportunities
Improving access and admission to college and other educational resources
We Are Here to Help
Each of California's methods for dealing with your criminal record have different requirements and are meant for different circumstances. To move forward, it’s important to determine what California criminal record services are available to you, and then select the services that will provide the greatest benefit. Eastman Meyler, PC is here to help you navigate this very specific area of California criminal law, fight to protect your rights, and assist you in moving forward in life without the effects of a California criminal record.
You can trust that you will get exceptional service from our law firm, as we have an A Rating from the Better Business Bureau, and prestigious attorney rating services such as Thompson Reuters and Avvo list our attorneys as Super Lawyers and Superb Attorneys. Our law firm has attorneys licensed to practice law in all California state courts, provides low price guarantees, and is here to fight for you and put your criminal record behind you!