Expungement in California
- Penal Code §1203.4 & §1203.4(a) -
Expungement - PC 1203.4 & 1203.4(a)
If you pled guilty or were found guilty after a trial, you may be eligible for an expungement. Expunging a conviction from your record allows you to legally say that you have never been convicted of a crime. This is particularly beneficial 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. Ordinarily, you would have to disclose the fact that you were previously convicted of a crime.
This could lead employers to inquire about the facts underlying the charges, which may be embarrassing or unrepresentative of your character. On the other hand, if you have expunged the conviction from your record, then you are legally permitted to answer that you were never convicted.
Also consider, some employers require you to complete a fingerprint scan (sometimes called a LiveScan) so they can review your criminal record prior to starting your new position.
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.”
1. What is an expungement in California - PC 1203.4?
In California, an expungement is a type of post-conviction relief that helps relieve people convicted of certain criminal offenses from the lifelong consequences of a criminal record. An expungement is authorized pursuant to penal code section 1203.4 and 1203.4(a).
The Judicial Council of California has made it easier than ever for defendants to request an expungement. All courts provide templates and forms that can be used to file your request for an expungement.
You can also download a copy of the petition for expungement by visiting the court’s website here.
You should complete as much information on the petition as possible. The more information the court has about your case, the easier it will be for the court to find your conviction.
At a minimum, your petition for expungement should include the original case number, the underlying charges, and the date of conviction. It should also include whether you’re requesting relief under PC §1203.4 or §1203.4(a).
Court form CR-180 is used to petition the court for an expungement.
After filing your petition with the court clerk’s office, the court will either (1) review your petition in chambers or (2) calendar your case for a hearing on the merits.
If the court decides to review your case in chambers, then you will not have to go to court for a hearing, the judge will review the documents and decide whether to grant your request. If your petition is scheduled for a hearing, it is your responsibility to attend the hearing and convince the judge why relief should be granted.
When the court grants an expungement, the defendant is permitted to withdraw their guilty plea and have the case dismissed.
2. 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 felony AND been granted probation.
You are not eligible for an expungement if any of the following are true:
You were sentenced to prison,
You are still on probation,
You are charged with a new criminal offense, or
You are currently serving a criminal sentence.
Additionally, there are certain crimes that are simply ineligible for expungement relief. These offenses include:
Penal Code §286(c),
Penal Code §288,
Penal Code §287(c) or of former §288a,
Penal Code §288.5,
Penal Code §289(j),
Penal Code §311.1, §311.2, §311.3, or §311.11, or
A felony conviction of §261.5(d).
If you were sentenced to a term in prison, then you are likely ineligible for an expungement.
3. Does the judge have to grant an expungement?
Even if you meet the qualifications above, not everyone is entitled to an expungement 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 expungement relief pursuant to PC 1203.4 & 1203.4(a). A judge would have to grant your request for an expungement.
Although you’re not entitled to relief if you violated your probation or failed to “successfully complete the terms of probation,” you may still be able to have your conviction expunged. A judge may grant your request for an expungement if (s)he finds that it is in “the interest of justice” to do so.
The court will almost certainly schedule a hearing in any case where the defendant failed to successfully complete probation. As discussed above, it is your job to convince the judge that your request for an expungement should be granted.
Some things a judge will consider in evaluating whether to grant an expungement in the interest of justice are:
The time that has elapsed between the conviction and the request for an expungement.
The defendant’s other criminal violations.
Why you are requesting relief (is it because you have a possible job offer).
The severity of the offense that was committed.
The severity of the probation violation.
As of January 1, 2023, a judge may NOT consider an unpaid order of restitution or restitution fine grounds for denial of the petition for relief.
4. How much does it cost to get an expungement?
The court is permitted to require a filing fee to cover the costs of services rendered, whether or not an 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.
The filing fee for an expungement must be paid to the clerk’s office at the time of submitting your petition. If you are unable to afford to pay the fee, then you may be entitled to a fee waiver.
5. What is the difference between an expungement and sealing a criminal record?
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 record 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.
6. Does an expungement restore your gun rights?
No, an expungement pursuant to PC 1203.4 or 1203.4(a) does not restore your gun rights in California.
Under California law, any person convicted of a felony is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. There are also certain misdemeanor offenses, like criminal threats, that carry a 10-year firearm ban.
Despite getting these charges expunged from your record, you will still be unable to own or possess a firearm. However, a person may be able to restore their gun rights by requesting that the court reduce the felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to Penal Code 17(b).
An expungement will not restore a person's gun rights in California.
Getting an expungement is a great way to help clean-up your past criminal record. An expungement can mean the difference between getting the job you always wanted and having the door shut in your face.
If you have questions about your eligibility for an expungement or how an expungement can help you, contact a local Orange County expungement lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. to schedule your FREE consultation today.
7. Do you really need to hire an expungement lawyer?
No. You do not need to hire an expungement lawyer to file a petition for expungement. As it was mentioned earlier, California courts provide templates that defendants can use to request an expungement.
That said, there are many benefits of hiring an Orange County expungement lawyer to handle the expungement process. First and foremost, an expungement lawyer has the expertise and experience necessary to navigate the complex and often convoluted process of requesting an expungement.
Moreover, an expungement lawyer can significantly increase the chances of successfully petitioning for expungement by crafting compelling arguments, presenting a strong case, and advocating for their clients before the court. This legal representation not only saves time and reduces stress but also maximizes the likelihood of a clean criminal record.
Ultimately, hiring an expungement lawyer to handle the process provides individuals with the support and guidance needed to leave their past mistakes behind and move forward towards a brighter future. At JPLaw, P.C. you’ll find a dedicated Orange County expungement lawyer ready to fight for your future!
Orange County Criminal Expungement Lawyer
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Don't let your past define your future. Contact JPLaw, P.C. today to speak with a dedicated Orange County expungement lawyer and take the first step towards a brighter, unburdened tomorrow.