The New Year is a time when it seems that life has handed us a clean slate. In most cases this may be true, but let’s get real: none of us are perfect. We’ve all made mistakes. There may be things we’ve done in our past that we’re ashamed of, things that we wish we could make go away. If you’ve been arrested and convicted of a misdemeanor or felony crime, you will usually have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life. No matter how much you may have changed, this can impact your ability to get admitted to schools or certain professional licenses, get a job or promotion, or affect your chances of renting a house or apartment.
Fortunately, there may be a legal remedy to address this problem. That legal procedure is called an expungement. Most people may have heard of the term and have some idea of what it means, but there are also many misconceptions about expungements, what they can and can’t do for you, and how to go about getting one.
How an Expungement Works
The process and rules for getting an expungement vary from state to state. In California, your plea of GUILTY (or no contest) is withdrawn, and a plea of NOT GUILTY is entered. Your case is reviewed by a judge and, in most instances, DISMISSES your case. Records of your case show it as “DISMISSED.” The expungement is then transmitted to the Department of Justice.
The Benefits of Getting an Expungement
- You can truthfully answer “No” if an employer or creditor asks you if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime.
- It may help you with some job licenses and certificates.
- It can improve your credit rating.
- It can help you with housing and loan applications.
- An expungement can restore student loan eligibility after a drug conviction.
- It may help if you are trying to change your immigration status.
What an Expungement Does Not Do
- It does not erase your record. The charge will still appear on your record, but it will show as being DISMISSED.
- The expunged conviction can still be used as a prior conviction to increase your sentence if you are charged with a different crime in the future.
- If the expunged conviction was a “strike,” it can still be used as a strike in sentencing.
- If you lost your firearm rights, it will not automatically restore your ability to possess a firearm. In some cases, you can get your felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Another legal option is to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon.
- If you have to register as a sex offender, you will still have to register even after the conviction is expunged. You can petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation after your expungement is granted.
- Some licensing agencies do not recognize expungements when they decide to grant or deny a license. You should contact the appropriate licensing agency about their policy.
- If applying for a government job, you must still admit your conviction if asked whether you have ever been convicted. However, you can note that the case was dismissed per Penal Code section 1203.4.
- If your driver’s license has been suspended, expungement of the conviction will not affect your license; it will still be suspended. Expungement does not affect your DMV record.
- You cannot expunge a conviction if you were sent to state prison.
- There are also certain criminal offenses in California that cannot be expunged, including some sex offenses.
About California DUI Expungements
Many people believe that a DUI conviction goes off your record after ten years. This is not true. It stays on your record for life unless you have the conviction expunged. It is important to note that expungement does not affect your DMV record.
California allows you to have your DUI conviction expunged after you complete your probation as long as you are not facing any current charges or on probation for another offense and your sentence did not involve state prison (as opposed to county jail). California allows you to have your DUI conviction expunged after you complete your probation. If you were not placed on probation, you can have your record expunged one year after your conviction. If your DUI conviction was a felony, it may be possible to reduce that conviction to a misdemeanor.
Talk to an Attorney
The laws regarding expungement can be complex. It is in your best interest to talk to a licensed attorney about your legal options if you want to have a conviction expunged from your record. It may be well worth the effort to move forward with your life with confidence and free from shame or fear.
Contact a California Gay and Lesbian Expungement and Pardon Attorney today for a free case consultation.
David Hakimfar is a Trial Attorney and Senior Partner of Hakimfar Law, PLC, and a member attorney of Pride Legal. He can be reached at 310-730-1250.