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Expunging Your Record


After being convicted of a crime, many people are eligible to have their conviction expunged from their record. Expunging your record allows you to legally say that you have never been convicted of a crime. This is especially important when applying for housing or employment.


For example, imagine you are applying for a new job and the application has a question regarding your criminal history. If you have expunged your conviction from your record, then you are permitted to answer that you were never convicted of that crime. On the other hand, if you have not expunged that conviction from your record, then you would have to answer that you were convicted of that crime.


Also consider, some employers require you to complete a fingerprint scan (sometimes called a LiveScan) so they can see any criminal history on your record. If you have expunged your record, then your prior conviction will appear as “dismissed” or “dismissed in the interest of justice.” But, without the benefits of an expungement, your conviction will appear on your background check as “guilty” or “convicted.”

What is an expungement?

A person can expunge a conviction from their record pursuant to Penal Code §1203.4. An expungement allows a person convicted of a crime to withdraw their plea of guilty and enter a plea of not guilty. Upon doing so, the case is also dismissed, relieving you of many of the negative consequences associated with a criminal record.

Who is eligible for an expungement?

Not everyone is eligible to have their conviction expunged. To be eligible for an expungement, you must have been convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony AND must have been granted probation. You are not eligible for an expungement if:

  1. You were sentenced to prison.

  2. You are on probation.

  3. You are charged with a new criminal offense.

  4. You are currently serving a criminal sentence.


Additionally, there are certain crimes that are simply ineligible for expungement. These offenses are:

  1. Penal Code §286(c),

  2. Penal Code §288,

  3. Penal Code §287(c) or of former §288a,

  4. Penal Code §288.5,

  5. Penal Code §289(j),

  6. Penal Code §311.1, §311.2, §311.3, or §311.11, or

  7. A felony conviction of §261.5(d).

Are you entitled to have your conviction expunged?

Even if you meet the qualifications above, not everyone is entitled to have their conviction expunged as a matter of right. Only persons who have “successfully completed the terms of probation” are entitled to have their conviction expunged as a matter of right. Thus, if you completed probation without violating any of the terms, then you are legally entitled to have your conviction expunged.


However, even if you violated your probation, you may still be able to have your conviction expunged. Although you are not entitled to the expungement as a matter of right, a judge may still grant your request if (s)he finds that it is in “the interest of justice” to grant your expungement. Some things a judge will consider in evaluating whether to grant an expungement in the interest of justice are:

  1. The time that has elapsed between the conviction and the request to expunge,

  2. The defendant’s other criminal violations,

  3. Why you are requesting relief (is it because you have a possible job offer),

  4. The severity of the offense that was committed, and

  5. The severity of the probation violation.

Are there costs associated with an expungement?

A court is permitted to request a filing fee to cover the costs of services rendered, whether or not the expungement is granted. These fees, however, cannot be more than $150.


For example, the Orange County Superior Court charges the maximum permissible filing fee for an expungement at $150. This fee must be paid to the clerk’s office before the clerk’s office will file your expungement.


NOTE: If you are unable to afford the costs of the fee, then you may be entitled to a fee waiver.

What is the difference between having a conviction expunged and having a record sealed?

Although an expungement is very beneficial in relieving the negative consequences of a conviction, it does not mean that all the records are erased or that the records cannot be discovered. The records of a former conviction only become undiscoverable if the records are sealed. Sealing your records is an additional form of relief and is only available in limited circumstances.

That said, an expungement doesn’t just help clean your record, it can mean the difference between getting hired for the job you really want and being disqualified before even getting the chance to interview. For more information regarding the expungement process, whether you are eligible, and the likelihood of success in petitioning for relief please call the number above.

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