If you’ve ever been arrested, charged with, or convicted of a crime, you already know how a past mistake can continue to haunt you for years. Even if you were never even charged with a crime, simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have a serious, lasting impact on your future. An arrest record or conviction can make it incredibly difficult to secure a job, find a place to live, open a line of credit, or even get an education. All of this is not only incredibly frustrating, but it also puts your future at stake.
The good news is that the California criminal justice system does allow certain eligible individuals to move forward from past mistakes. While the most commonly known method of cleaning up one’s criminal record is expungement, there are several legal options for those wishing to get a fresh start.
Continue reading to learn more or contact Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners directly to learn how our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can help.
What Is Expungement?
An expungement is a type of post-conviction relief that allows a defendant to be released from the ongoing “penalties and disabilities” associated with a conviction. Successfully having your record expunged will make it so that you do not need to disclose a past conviction to a potential employer and allows you to obtain certain professional licenses or join various professional organizations. In certain cases, it can also allow individuals to avoid negative immigration consequences, including deportation.
Notable, an expungement cannot do several things. Having your criminal record expunged will not reverse a driver’s license revocation or suspension (e.g. in the case of a DUI conviction), restore your right to own or possess a firearm in the case of certain felonies, nor exempt you from having to register as a sex offender if convicted of applicable sex crimes. Additionally, even if your criminal record is expunged, past convictions can still be used for the purpose of enhanced sentencing or as a “strike” under California’s three-strike rule.
Am I Eligible to Have My Criminal Record Expunged?
You could be eligible for criminal record expungement if you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and meet certain eligibility requirements.
In order to file a petition for expungement, you must meet all the following requirements:
- You have successfully completed probation, and;
- You did not serve time in state prison for the crime in question, or;
- You did serve time in state prison for the offense but would have served time in county jail had you received the conviction after Proposition 47’s “realignment” rule, which reduces certain “wobblers” from felonies to misdemeanors
In addition to the above requirements, you must also meet the following eligibility requirements to have your criminal record expunged:
- You are not currently charged with a criminal offense
- You are not currently on probation for another criminal offense
- You are not currently serving a criminal sentence
In nearly all cases, in order to have your record expunged, you must have completed the entirety of your probation successfully. In some cases, you may obtain an early termination of probation and thereby become eligible for expungement.
Individuals convicted of certain crimes are not eligible for expungement, regardless of whether they have successfully completed probation. These offenses include:
- Lewd acts with a child
- Sodomy with a child
- Oral copulation with a child
- Statutory rape
How to Expunge a Criminal Record in California
In order to have your criminal record expunged, you must file a petition with the court. Once the court has received your petition, it will either allow you to withdraw your guilty or no contest plea and enter a not guilty plea, or it will set aside a guilty verdict if you were convicted after entering a not guilty plea.
It is strongly recommended that you work with an attorney who can aid you in the process of petitioning the court to have your record expunged. Your attorney will be able to determine whether you are eligible for expungement and, if so, can assist you in the necessary steps. If you are not eligible for expungement, or if an alternative form of post-conviction relief is more appropriate in your case, your attorney will also be able to assist you in looking at other options.
Other Available Options Aside from Expungement
Aside from expungement, there are several options available to those looking for a chance at a fresh start. As mentioned above, Proposition 47 allows certain individuals convicted of non-violent/non-serious “wobblers” to become eligible for resentencing. This allows you to have a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
It’s also important to note that the California Department of Justice is reviewing and sealing all past convictions for marijuana-related offenses that are no longer crimes now that recreational marijuana has been legalized in the state.
Additionally, you could be eligible for early termination of probation or to have the terms of your probation changed. In most cases, you become eligible for early termination of probation only after you have completed at least two-thirds or three-fourths of your sentence and have met all other applicable requirements.
In some cases, you could even be eligible to have your wrongful arrest record sealed and destroyed. In order to do this, you will need to prove that law enforcement lacked reasonable cause to arrest you for the crime you were accused of. This is known as a factual innocence motion, and it should ideally be filed two years after the arrest or accusatory pleading.
Contact an Attorney at Our Firm
Whether you wish to have your criminal record in California expunged or you want to learn more about your other available options, turn to the Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners for the trusted, aggressive legal representation you need. We are ready to advise you of your legal rights and help you move forward from past mistakes and wrongful arrests.
Contact our firm today to request a FREE, confidential consultation.