Clearing Your Criminal Record
What is an Expungement?
Expungement is the formal process of clearing one’s record. The word expunge means to erase completely, and in this case, it is relating to one’s criminal record. Specifically, it is the process to destroy or seal a criminal conviction from a state or federal record. An expungement must be ordered by a judge. The order is to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never happened.
Overall, an expungement in California does not fully remove a criminal conviction from your record, but instead will show the case as dismissed. This means that someone looking at your criminal record will see that you have been charged but will only see that the charges were dismissed.
People do this to avoid adverse effects from a conviction or arrest, such as denying employment, professional licensing, or other opportunities for advancement. The expungement process can result in a few different results:
- A release from penalties due to a criminal record
- Sealing the criminal record from public view
- Destruction of the record completely
- Reinstitution of voting rights
- Relief from criminal registration
- Relief from impeachment (except when testifying as a criminal defendant)
Who Qualifies for an Expungement?
If you were convicted of an infraction or misdemeanor you can petition for a dismissal, also known as expungement. If you were convicted of some felonies that did not lead to sentencing in state prison or being put under the control of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, you can petition for a dismissal. You are eligible to request an expungement if you are ready AND eligible. The information below clearly outlines who is ready and who is eligible for an expungement.
Someone who is ready is/has:
- Not currently in prison or jail
- Paid all fines and fees on your case
- Not on probation or parole (if you are on probation, you can request the court terminate your probation early if some of these other factors are met)
- Not currently charged with a crime
Someone who is eligible is/has:
- A conviction for a misdemeanor or eligible felony
- Sentenced to jail time in a county jail or probation due to said crime
- Not had state prison or parole time
- Not a parolee
- Not convicted of a federal crime (a federal crime is prosecuted in a Federal District Court)
California does not allow an expungement for certain felony offense including sexual offences against children, murder, and kidnapping. Expungement will not apply and also is at risk for being reversed, if the offense is repeated. Additionally, if your offense relates to gun violence, you will never be allowed a gun permit in California and cannot become a police officer. Finally, you must disclose your expunged conviction if you are running for public office, contracting with the California Lottery Commission, or applying for a state license of any kind.
How to get a copy of your Criminal Record?
You need to submit a copy of your criminal record to apply for an expungement. Thus, you will need to obtain a copy of your criminal record before filing. To do so, you will first need the following information:
- Court where you were convicted, and name convicted under
- Date of conviction
- Case number
- Code and Section number (ex: Penal Code 647(b))
- Any offense picked up during probation (if applicable)
If you do not know all of this information you can find it by filling out a Request for Live Scan Services Form and taking the completed form to any Live Scan Location. Once you have this information gathered, you can pick up your court file, also known as your docket. In Los Angeles County, you can go to any county criminal court to collect your docket, free of charge. However, outside of LA County, you will have to contact your court clerk to learn more about how to get your docket.
How to Apply for an Expungement?
You can always file for expungement on your own, and if you have all the paperwork needed and know how to go through the process, then that could be the best option for you. However, hiring an experienced attorney is helpful to ensure the process is completed properly and your records are successfully expunged.
Applying on your own:
- Fill out and file expungement petition
- Pay fee (or fill out fee waiver) for expungement
- If required by the courts, serve the district of city attorney- if you have to go to court, you will want to prepare to respond to any reason defending your position for expungement. Provide copies of your statement and all documentation to deliver to the court.
- The court will then decide on your petition in 1-3 months
- If rejected, you can…
- File a reconsideration request within 60 days
- Re-file your claim on a later date
- If your petition is accepted, the record will be expunged, and the court will note the overturned conviction on your record permanently
- If rejected, you can…
Applying with an attorney:
Hiring an experienced attorney, like those at Spolin Law, can help guide you through this process. The attorney will make sure all paperwork is correct and is supported by all necessary documentation. You may or may not be required to show up in court for your hearing. If so, your attorney can also help you prepare for your hearing. An attorney can also advocate on your behalf both in your petition and at a hearing. Your attorney can also make sure that decisions are being made justly and the District Attorney acts fairly. Therefore, having an attorney can help your case by making your petition strong and also make the process easier for you. Read on for more information about how to work with an attorney to expunge your record!
Your Expungement Hearing
Hearings are held before a judge, without a jury, and usually take about 10 minutes. It is recommended that you be early to your hearing, dress professionally, and behave appropriately. Your eligibility for expungement is based on the following:
- Your charge(s)
- Status of your probation
- Your ability to find and hold a job
- Your additional convictions, if applicable
- Community service & involvement
Results of an Expungement
If your petition is accepted: you will receive a signed order in the mail documenting the dismissal of your case from the California Superior Court Judge that heard your case. You no longer have to answer YES when asked if you have a criminal record, unless you:
- Have other convictions
- Run for Public Office
- Intend to work for the California Lottery Commission
- Apply for a state license
If your petition is denied: You can re-apply 6 months after the petition is denied and after you have made the changes recommended by the judge. If you are not eligible for expungement, there are other options you can look into:
- Have your record sealed or destroyed (if you were wrongfully convicted)
- Obtain a certificate of rehabilitation
- Obtain a direct pardon from the governor
Typically, the whole process takes 90-120 days, depending on courts and cases. However, this process could take longer if you are filing for expungement a long time after you were convicted, the conviction was for a felony, or depending on how complex the case was, and more.
Some courthouses are faster at processing expungements: for example, Van Nuys Court in Los Angeles County, and Newport Beach Court in Orange County. These courts can do it as fast at 6-8 weeks.
How a Top Criminal Appeals Lawyer Can Help
Since filing for an Expungement can be difficult and strenuous, Spolin Law is here to help. Spolin Law P.C. is a law firm led by Aaron Spolin. Aaron Spolin is a former prosecutor and criminal appeals lawyer who is ranked in the top 1% of criminal law attorneys in California. If you need help filing an expungement, Spolin Law can accurately and precisely help in the most cost-effective and efficient way.
Spolin Law P.C. is well-known in California from its large number of cases won, and the high success rate. Please call (310) 893-0473 or send a note online to learn more about how we can help you file a petition for an Expungement.