Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the benefit of getting an expungement?
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 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.”
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.
2. What is the difference between an expungement and having my record sealed?
An expungement can help clean your record in many ways. However, there are limitations to what an expungement can do for your record. An expungement will allow you to answer that you were not convicted of the crime that was expunged from your record, but the records themselves still exist. There are still court documents related to the conviction, and although your conviction will appear as “dismissed” or “dismissed in the interest of justice”, there is still a record on your background check.
Sealing your record goes one step beyond an expungement. Sealing your record makes it so that only law enforcement and the court can see what was on your record prior to having it sealed. Thus, any records that are sealed are NOT visible or accessible to prospective employers that may be reviewing your background check. There are very particular requirements that must be met before someone can have their record sealed. To ensure that you are successful in sealing your record, contact an experienced expungement lawyer at JPLaw, P.C.
3. Is it possible to have my case dismissed even though I am GUILTY?
Yes! There are many ways of defending a criminal case. One very effective way of winning a criminal case is petitioning for judicial diversion. In essence, judicial diversion is a program that permits a case to be continued by the judge assigned to your case. While the case is being continued, the judge would have you perform several tasks – like taking a class on anger management, paying a fine, and/or completing some community service.
Although these tasks may seem daunting or labor intensive, successfully completing the program will lead to your case being dismissed and any record of an arrest sealed. By completing judicial diversion, you show the judge that you take responsibility for your conduct and in return you can maintain a clean record.
4. Does JPLaw, P.C. offer financing options?
Yes, financing is always an option. One of the staples of this firm is that every criminal defendant is entitled to competent representation. If you cannot afford an attorney, you shouldn’t feel stuck with a public defender just because you don’t have thousands of dollars to fork over for a private attorney. I make it a priority to work with all prospective clients to meet their needs and resources.
5. What is bail and how does it work?
With the exception to very serious, violent felonies, you are entitled to be released on bail. Bail is a monetary value that is used to ensure two things: (1) that you will attend court when directed to appear and (2) that you will not commit any new law violations from the time of your release and your appearance in court. Your bail amount – how much needs to be paid – is determined based on the charges you are facing. The more serious the crime, the higher your bail.
If you cannot afford to pay your bail, then you have two options. The first is to contact a bail bondsman. Rather than having you pay the entire amount of your bail, a bail bondsman has you pay between 5-10% of your bail amount. In exchange, the bail bondsman pays your entire bail amount so you can be released. Unfortunately, you will not get back the money you have paid to your bail bondsman.
The second option is to have your attorney request a bail review hearing with the court. Since not every defendant is situated equally, a bail review hearing allows your attorney to demonstrate to the court why your bail should be reduced or even eliminated. This is a very important step in a criminal case, especially for those with limited financial recourses and assets. A successful bail review hearing could allow you to be released from custody while your criminal case is pending with the court.
6. What happens after you are arrested for a crime?
After being arrested or charged with a crime, you will either be released on your own recognizance or required to post bail before being released. If you are released on your own recognizance, then you are promising that you will appear at your court hearing without having to pay money for your release. If you are required to “post bail” then you will remain in custody unless you can pay the designated amount for your release.
Whether released on your own recognizance or required to post bail, you will be given a court date to appear before a judge in Orange County. This first appearance is called your arraignment. Several different issues are discussed at your arraignment. You are told what the formal charges are against you, you are instructed to enter a plea, your bail is reviewed, and you are provided with a copy of the discovery in your case.
Once your arraignment is complete, the court will set a new date for you to return to court for a pretrial conference. A pretrial conference is where you discuss the status of the case with the prosecution, as well as take up any issues that must be resolved before your case is set for trial. A pretrial conference is also important because it is when your attorney will do most of the negotiating with the prosecution. Between your arraignment date and your pretrial, your attorney should have crafted what kind of defense will be used to defend you in court. An attorney who appears at your pretrial wholly unprepared is doing you and your rights an injustice.
Lastly, if your attorney could not resolve your case during the pretrial stages, your case will be set for trial. You are entitled to a jury trial in any case where you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. It is at trial where your attorney will be tasked with telling your side of the story. Ultimately, the fate of your case rests in the hands of 12 Orange County residents. Therefore, it is critical you get the right lawyer to effectively prove your innocence.
7. Should I hire a lawyer even though I haven't been arrested?
Even though you have not yet been arrested or charged with a crime you still have rights that need protected. When under investigation for committing a crime, it is important you know what rights you have and how to invoke them. Some of these rights include:
Right to privacy: You always have a right to privacy. However, how much privacy you have is all dependent on the circumstance. At the most basic level, you are entitled to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that the government cannot search you or your vehicle without probable cause. Having an attorney review the government’s conduct can greatly increase your chances of having illegally obtained evidence excluded at trial.
Right to remain silent: At any stage of an investigation or criminal proceeding you have the right to remain silent. This is probably the most important right because anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Even if you’re just explaining what happened, law enforcement and the prosecution team will use any inconsistency or discrepancy in your statement against you. A common strategy used by these government agencies is to make it seem as though your story is impossible or just self-serving. The best thing to do is to not say anything without an attorney. Or better yet, let the attorney tell your story for you.
Right to an attorney: Your right to an attorney can be exercised as early as your first contact with police. If police have made you reasonably believe that you are not free to leave AND are asking questions that is reasonably likely to lead to an incriminating response, then you have the right to request an attorney. That said, law enforcement agencies will not go out of their way to tell you that you can request an attorney. For that reason, it is always best to have an attorney ready and at your disposal before having any contact with police. The sooner you retain the services of an attorney, the sooner your attorney can start working to defend your rights!