If you have ever been denied a professional license, rental opportunity, educational opportunity, or a job due to your previous conviction or arrest, you know and understand the effects of the criminal record. In Riverside, landlords, professional boards, and employers might conduct background checks, and if they show a history of crime, you might be denied the opportunity. Fortunately, you can erase the criminal record. Thanks to the expungement provision. With skilled legal assistance, expungement helps you avoid discrimination and get a fresh start. For many years, Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm has successfully represented thousands of clients. We can use our experience to erase all computer files, court records, and documents associated with your crime.

Defining Expungement

Penal Code Section 1203.4 defines expungement as a release that relieves you of almost all negative consequences and penalties stemming from a conviction. Dismissal of your crime provides a start from your past. It is beneficial for maintaining and securing professional state licenses and employment.

You are eligible for expungement provided you:

  • completed probation (it could be either summary probation or formal probation), and
  • are not currently serving your sentence for criminal conduct, prosecuted with an offense, or on California probation.

The legal phrase completed probation implies that you:

  • met all your probation conditions like paid all fines, completed your counseling program, and performed community service,
  • attended court hearings (it can be through your defense lawyer or in-person), and
  • didn't violate any other law while on your probation.

Who Does Not Qualify For California Expungement?

The court can't erase your conviction if you served time in prison unless your offense conviction is one which you could now attract time in county jail.

Moreover, some felonies cannot be expunged. They include sex crimes against minors like:

  • Sodomy with a minor (Penal Code Section 286c PC)
  • Lewd conduct with a person below 18 (Penal Code Section 288 PC)
  • Oral copulation with a minor (PC 287c)
  • Statutory rape (PC 261.5d) makes it illegal for an individual at least twenty years to engage in sexual intercourse with a person less than sixteen.

You Can Qualify this Post-Conviction Relief Even If You Did Not Meet Your Probation Terms

While one of the requirements of expungement qualification is satisfying your probation, if you violated your probation, all isn't lost. The judge will plan a court hearing to tell whether you are indeed an ideal fit for expungement or not.

The judge makes the ultimate decision on whether to deny or accept your expungement application. The judge will consider the factors below:

  • Your performance and behavior after being placed on probation
  • Evidence that verifies you deserve the post-conviction relief like robust community ties, your family's support, and securing and maintaining employment
  • The severity of the crime
  • Your criminal record

What Happens If You are Sentenced to Jail Per Proposition 47 Realignment?

Persons sentenced to state prison can expunge their criminal records. Qualified candidates could have served time in jail for a law violation offense had it occurred following the 2011 Prop 47 Realignment legislation.

Please note, this exemption per Penal Code Section 1203.42 isn't automatic. Instead, the judge will grant it in their power, provided they think it is in the interests of justice.

You are  eligible per California Penal Code section 1203.42 if the criminal activity should be punishable in jail and:

  • The applicant isn't under supervised release, serving time for a crime, on probation, or charged for committing a crime, and
  • Over two years have elapsed since they completed their sentence.

How to Get an Expungement Per Penal Code Section 1203.42 PC

You can apply either personally, through a qualified lawyer, or with your probation officer.

Then the court can either:

  • Let the applicant withdraw the no-contest plea or guilty plea and enter a not guilty plead, or
  • Set aside their guilty verdict if they were convicted after pleading not guilty

In both scenarios, the court will discharge your accusations, and you'll be relieved of the consequences and penalties stemming from your crime in the same manner as the normal expungement.

When Can Your Sealed Record Be Reopened?

Once your criminal record has been expunged, it cannot be reopened. However, there are exemptions. The prosecutor might reopen the record if you have been arrested for similar charges. Another example is if you were found guilty, and the prosecution team can re-open to acquire information about other parties involved in the offense.

What are the Benefits of a Criminal Record Expungement?

There are numerous benefits linked to expunging your criminal record, including:

  • Assists you secure an employment opportunity — Background checks on potential workers are increasingly becoming popular among employers and companies. The background check will review your arrests, previous convictions, and whether you have ever been placed on probation. Additionally, during a job interview, the employer might ask you about your prior conviction. An expungement permits you to answer "no" to the question truthfully. It is also illegal for your prospective boss to consider your expunged conviction when making the hiring decision.
  • Helps you in court — If you are a witness in a civil trial like a personal injury case, the opposing lawyer cannot use your expunged conviction to question your credibility as a witness. This benefit can assist you since your testimony can play a significant role in the case's outcome, especially if you're sued or sue a person for damages.
  • Helps you acquire a state license — Professionals like doctors, contractors, teachers, and lawyers require state licenses to practice. Even if the record is expunged, you should disclose your previous convictions regarding questions about this information. However, most state licensing authorities will overlook your conviction provided it was expunged from your criminal record.
  • Offers peace of mind — While there are numerous benefits of expungement, an essential one might be your satisfaction and peace of mind. Even if you have faced the penalties of your crime, it is sometimes difficult to feel like it is behind you while the criminal record is still out there. Expungement offers you a clean slate, and you can be a contributing member of society with the privileges and rights of a citizen.
  • You can become a member of the professional organization — Most professional organizations conduct background checks before inviting an individual to hold a position or join. The benefit of expungement here is that the ill effect and stigma of the conviction is less.
  • Social benefits — An expunged record can reduce your conviction's effect on your family relationships, personal relationships, and relationships with your community.
  • You can get educational opportunities — Young people make most expungement requests with juvenile criminal records. Expungement prevents colleges from seeing and accessing this damaging information.
  • Finally, expungement allows you to rent a property and live in decent areas.

What Expungement Cannot Do: Limitations

Some of the things that your expungement cannot do include:

  • Overturning your driving privileges withdrawal and revocation
  • End your sex offender registration obligation per PC 290
  • Restore the entitlement to own, possess, or buy a firearm per PC 29800

Your expunged conviction that is a strike is still a strike under the three-strikes law.

Additionally, the court might use your expunged conviction as a previous conviction to enhance your sentencing penalties. For example, your expunged drunk driving conviction serves as a previous if you're later accused of another driving under the influence offense.

It will also not prevent your conviction from being used by immigration for removal and exclusion purposes.

Ideal Time to Apply for Expungement

If a person qualifies for expungement, they can file their petition after early probation termination or completing their probation.

More often than not, your defense attorney can petition for expungement and early termination concurrently. The lawyer could expedite your expungement process by packaging numerous motions into a single motion. A good example of the packaging comprises asking the judge in a proceeding to:

  • make your California felony charges to misdemeanor charges in cases where your felony crime is a California wobbler,
  • expunge your conviction, and
  • grant the early termination of probation.

What is Early Termination of Probation?

PC 1203.3 allows the court to grant the accused person's request to obtain early termination of their probation. Your lawyer should bring your motion with the prosecutor and the court more than two (2) days before your requested hearing's date to acquire this relief.

The legal counsel should talk with the prosecution about the case. The lawyer will clarify why you're a perfect fit for early termination of probation. They will also request the prosecution to support the motion.

During your hearing, the skilled defense lawyer will ask the court to grant the motion by claiming that your good conduct and reform justify your request and that terminating the probation will best serve the interests of justice.

Destroying/Sealing Your Criminal Record Differs from Expungement

Most persons who reach seasoned criminal defense lawyers about expungement also desire to seal and destroy their juvenile and adult criminal records. California Senate Bill 383 makes expungement different from sealing/destroying the criminal record.

Some of the options for sealing your criminal records after expungement include sealing the arrest records, sealing records following case dismissal and plea withdrawal, and sealing juvenile records.

You qualify to have the arrest records sealed if:

  • the police put you in their custody, but the prosecution did not bring any charges,
  • the court dismissed your case,
  • the jury found you innocent following your jury trial,
  • you completed your program of diversion, or
  • your conviction was dismissed on appeal.

Generally, sealing your arrest record allows you to claim that you have never been detained for any offense. It's because the judge should assert you truthfully innocent before sealing the records.

Sealing Your California Juvenile Arrest Records

Sealing your juvenile court records has similar advantages as destroying adult records. A person can seal and destroy the juvenile arrest records if:

  • the judge terminated their juvenile court's jurisdiction over five (5) years ago or they are an adult,
  • there isn't a pending civil lawsuit based on their juvenile incident, and
  • as a grown-up, they haven't been found guilty of a crime of moral turpitude like arson, burglary, criminal threats, child abuse, aggravated assault, murder, grand theft auto, perjury, failure to register as a sex offender, and rape.

Filing for California Expungement Step-by-Step Process

Now that you're aware of California expungement, its benefits, and whether you qualify, it is time to take all the required steps. Here are comprehensive steps you should take:

  1. Retain a Competent Criminal Defense Lawyer

The California expungement process is time-consuming, confusing, and demands a lot of paperwork. As a result, you are more likely to make mistakes that could get your petition denied. However, your experienced attorney has previously handled similar cases, knows the process, and can get it right with the first shot.

  1. Acquire and complete the Required Forms

Your lawyer knows what forms to use for all situations. Most expungement forms are available at the courthouse. You can also download them from the court's website.

If you haven't completed probation, you should bring your Motion to Terminate probation, and if the Motion to Terminate probation is denied, you should bring a Petition for Dismissal.  If the form isn't available at the courthouse, you can draft your petition with your lawyer's assistance.

Suppose you want to erase your California felony records, the court should reduce the charges to a California misdemeanor. Courts grant requests to reduce wobblers to misdemeanors. Applicants can only reduce non-wobbler felonies to California misdemeanors by bringing a form per PC 17(b)(3). Then you can file your expungement petition under California Penal Code Section 1203.4.

Please note that you will require a copy of every form for every conviction.

Inquire from your attorney or the court whether you should submit more forms. Some of the documents you can attach to strengthen the petition include:

  • Proof of completion of community service
  • Character references.
  1. Bring Your Petition

After you've completed the required case paperwork, you can file for your expungement.

The duration to complete expungement for a California felony is four to five months. The judge in the court where you brought the petition hears the case.

A petitioner should file their petition in the county where they were found guilty.

Your petition to terminate probation and petition to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor conviction should be delivered personally or mailed to the court clerk.

Timely bringing paperwork is critical. For instance, you should provide the prosecution with more than fifteen days before your hearing. It gives the prosecution time to analyze the case and oppose it if desired.

Each jurisdiction has its charges and policies. Indigent persons can get financial help to cover their filling charges.

  1. Prepare for the Expungement Hearing

Whether you have to show up in your hearing depends on your case. Your lawyer will update and assist you in preparing for your hearing.

The judge decides whether to grant the expungement or not. You are likely to obtain an expungement if you don't have more convictions, have completed community service, and maintain a job.

Usually, the hearing takes approximately ten minutes. During your hearing, behave appropriately and be punctual.

  1. If the Judge Grants Your Petition

You'll get a signed order from the California Superior Court judge verifying the dismissal of your conviction and case. The public can still access your criminal records unless the court and relevant agencies seal the record.

You can frankly answer "no" when questioned if you've criminal records unless you run for a public office or apply for state licenses.

  1. If the Judge Denies Your Expungement Application

Should the judge deny the petition, you can inquire why the judge denied it and what you should do to have the expungement petition granted. You can file the petition again after six months. Be sure to make the required changes.

How Long Does An Expungement Take?

Most expungement cases take about ninety to one hundred and twenty days. Some of the factors that affect the duration include:

  • The duration between your conviction and bringing your expungement petition
  • Whether your case is in the computer system at the courthouse where your expungement requires to be brought
  • Whether the case is a misdemeanor or a felony
  • The severity of your case
  • If the judge wants a probation report prepared before the court hearing

Alternative Remedies for Expungement

If the petition is denied and you discover you don't qualify for California expungement, you can consider any of the following:

Obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation

A Certificate of Rehabilitation doesn't erase your criminal record. Instead, it's a court order indicating that you are now a law-abiding citizen. One of its benefits is that it functions as an application for your governor's pardon. It can also help you acquire state licenses and relieve you of the responsibility to register as a sex offender.

Generally, it's available to persons with previous convictions of either:

  • A California felony and served time in a state penal agency or institution like state prison,
  • A felony and were placed on probation, and their conviction has been expunged, or
  • A misdemeanor sex crime under PC 290 and their conviction has been expunged

The defendant should also have:

  • been rehabilitated for a duration that ranges between two and five years after their release from detention, parole, or probation, and
  • lived in California for more than five years.

If you meet the qualification requirements, you can file your COR at any time after your least rehabilitation period has elapsed.

Governor's Pardon

It is a relief granted by the governor to convicted defendants who have shown a high degree of rehabilitation. It relieves most collateral effects of the conviction.

Some of the benefits of a governor's pardon include:

  • Restoration of gun rights
  • Entitlement to serve on a jury
  • You can become a state parole officer or probation officer
  • Relief from the obligation to register as a sex offender

Any person convicted of an offense can seek a pardon following a satisfactory rehabilitation period. The duration can be between seven to ten years, depending on your crime.

The clock begins ticking after you complete your parole or probation. During this time, you should be sentenced for any serious offense.

Finally, you should prove that you deserve the honor. 

Your experienced defense attorney will draft a file that includes a biography, character letters, criminal history, and pardon questionnaire to help you obtain the governor's pardon. The file is tailored to assist the governor in understanding why you deserve this post-conviction relief.

Why You Need a Lawyer to Handle Your Expungement

While you can choose to self-represent, it is not advisable. Here is how an expungement lawyer can help you.

  • Your attorney will save you a lot of stress and time — Your time is too precious to spend hours doing your legal work. On your own, you'll spend weeks determining your eligibility, learning how to draft your petition, and collecting court documents. This time is unquestionably better spent doing something else. Generally, the attorney's fees are pocket-friendly and take a significant amount of stress and work off your shoulders.
  • The judge might deny your petition regardless of your qualification — Being eligible is not adequate to obtain post-conviction relief. The judge should ensure the relief is in the interest of justice and that you aren't a community threat. Your legal expert can aid you in framing the reasoning for requiring and deserving expungement.
  • Some documents you will require to determine qualification are challenging to acquire — To confirm your qualification, you should gather a lot of documentation. Some of the criminal records are difficult or too old to access. The lawyer knows how and where to request the required records, making your process faster and easier.
  • Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether you qualify — There are numerous statutes used to expunge different criminal records, each with their set of evidence requirements, service, and filing. The laws have many restrictions, exemptions, caveats, and legal requirements. Your lawyer can help you understand the law and determine whether you qualify or not and, if yes, what you should do.

Find Skilled Legal Representation Near Me

Expungement is the process of clearing your criminal record. Setting aside your conviction permits you to be marked that you've never been found guilty of any crime, opening up opportunities that might not exist with the criminal record.

Filing for an expungement in Riverside is a multi-step and complicated process, and not every applicant qualifies. For assistance in determining whether you are eligible, contact an attorney. The proficient legal team at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can stand with you throughout the process. We can aid you with the required paperwork and represent you at the hearing. To learn more, contact us today at 951-946-6366. Your initial consultation will be confidential and free.