Clearing your criminal record in CA can be easy if you have the right forms, case numbers, dates and other pertinent information of your case. Once you have this information, you can save yourself a lot of money and time – and best of all you will not have to hire an expensive attorney.
But first, what will expunging your record do for you and why is it important to clear your criminal record?
Expungement of a criminal conviction is an excellent way to close a chapter on a past mistake. Expungement allows a person to move forward with their life, without the baggage of a prior conviction, or having to disclose a criminal record. Expungement provides freedom, peace of mind, and a clean slate.
Expungement of criminal convictions is the process that changes your plea from guilty or no contest to a not guilty plea. Expungement of a criminal case has many benefits, chiefly the ability to deny a conviction when asked by a potential employer.
What is the process?
Expungement begins by determining which type of relief is appropriate. The law will vary from state to state, so it is critical that you consult with a lawyer that knows the expungement law in your jurisdiction.
The type of expungement that will apply in your case will depend upon whether you were a juvenile or an adult at the time of the conviction; whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or a felony; and whether you were placed on probation or went to state prison as part of your punishment.
Expungement will usually require a lawyer to draft a motion (a formal legal document asking the court to take a particular action). The expungement motion will be filed with the court that sentenced you, and will also have to be served on the prosecutor and, in some cases, the probation department.
To get an Order of Expungement, the court must be convinced that you have led an honest and upright life, and the interests of justice would be served by granting the request.
Here’s how to get started Clearing (Expunging) A California Criminal Record
What Were The Details Of Your Conviction? In order to begin cleaning up your criminal record, you first need to know what is on your criminal record. The court will require you to fill out forms. Whether you are requesting a dismissal or a Certificate of Rehabilitation, you will need to know the details of your convictions(s) in order to complete the forms. Also, certain details will affect whether you are eligible. There are several details you will need to know in order to accomplish your goals:
o Your Case Number(s) [Sometimes called docket number.]
o Your Date(s) of Conviction(s) [The date of your plea or verdict.]
o The Code Name(s) and Section Number(s) you were convicted of violating.
o Was there a “Verdict” or did you “Enter a Plea”? If you Entered a Plea, was it “Guilty” or “Nolo Contendere” (No Contest)?
o Were you ordered to serve any time on “Probation”? If so, how long? [Formal and informal probation are treated the same.]
o Were you ordered to pay any “Fines,” “Restitution,” or “Reimbursement”?
o If you were sentenced to state prison, which one?
o If you were sentenced to state prison, what date were you released?
o If you were released on “Parole,” what date did your parole end?
Get a Copy of Your Criminal Records Information. Your criminal records information can be obtained from a variety of sources. Below is a list of the sources most commonly used.
1.Your court papers received at the time of conviction.
2.Your attorney, parole officer, probation officer, or contacts within the courts or law enforcement community.
3.The Superior Court where you were convicted. They will only have information for convictions from that county and not other counties. You will need to make a copy of your order(s) of judgment.
4.The California State Department of Justice, Criminal Records Division. They will have your criminal records information for the entire State of California.
They are located at 4949 Broadway, First Floor Fingerprinting Office, Sacramento, California. Their phone number is (916) 227-3400.
There is a fee, but you may be eligible for a fee waiver. You must provide written proof of your income. It may take several weeks for the record to arrive in the mail.
Your Options. Depending on your particular situation, you may have the following options:
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor and are still on probation, you may request early release from probation and file petition to have conviction dismissed. To do this, file a PC 1203.3 petition to have probation terminated early, and PC 1203.4 petition for expungement.
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor and have successfully completed probation you may file a petition to have conviction dismissed. To do this, file a PC 1203.4 petition for expungement.
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor and were never given any probation at all, you may file a petition to have conviction dismissed. To do this, file a PC 1203.4a petition for expungement
You were convicted of a felony and are still on probation you may request early release from probation and file a petition to have your conviction reduced to misdemeanor and dismissed. To do this, file a PC 1203.3 petition to have probation terminated early.
Also file a PC 17(b) petition to get felony reduced, and PC 1203.4 petition for expungement.
If you were convicted of a felony and are done with probation and/or county jail time you may file petition to have conviction reduced and dismissed.
To do this, file a PC 17(b) petition to get the felony reduced, and a PC 1203.4 petition for expungement
If you were convicted of a felony and were never given any probation at all and were sentenced to county jail, you may file a petition to have felony reduced to a misdemeanor and file petition to have conviction dismissed.
To do this file a PC 17(b) petition to get felony reduced and a PC 1203.4a petition for expungement.
You were convicted of a felony and were sentenced to state prison or under the authority of the California Department of Corrections, you may file a petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon.
Dismissal Of Cases Not Involving State Prison Sentences: If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony and were not sentenced to state prison or under the authority of the California Department of Corrections you can petition for a dismissal.
This means you were given county jail time, probation, a fine, or a combination of those three. If you are petitioning for a dismissal, the court upon proper motion, may withdraw your guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) plea, or verdict of guilt if you went to trial, and enter a not guilty plea.
Then the court will set aside and dismiss the conviction. From that point forward, you are considered no longer convicted of the offense. Your record will be changed to show a dismissal rather than a conviction.
You are Eligible if:
1. If you were given probation, you have either completed it or obtained early release. If you violated your probation and it was either reinstated or revoked, then the court has discretion whether or not to grant you a dismissal.
2. If you were not given probation, it has been at least one year since the date of conviction.
3. You have paid all fines, restitution and reimbursement ordered by the court as part of your sentence.
4. You are not currently under arraignment for a new criminal offense (charges pending), nor are you on probation for another offense.
If you were convicted of any of the following offenses you are not eligible for a dismissal: Vehicle Code Section 42001(b) which includes sections 2800, 2801 and 2803; Penal Code Section 261(d), 286(c), 288, 288a(c), 288.5 and 289(j).
If you were referred to a “diversion” program, you record will already be changed in one of two ways. If you successfully completed all of the diversion program requirements, your record should already be changed to show a dismissal.
If you didn’t complete your requirements or were not actually given diversion, then the conviction will be on your record.
If you were convicted of possession of marijuana for personal use then you do not necessarily need to get a dismissal for the offense. Under California Health and Safety Code Sections 11361.5 and 11361.7 all possession of marijuana for personal use convictions, after January 1, 1976, are erased from your record after two years.
BE CAREFUL! The conviction cannot be for cultivation, sales or transportation. If it is, it will be on your record.
Your Juvenile records do appear on your criminal record. Upon your 18th birthday, you are eligible to petition to have your juvenile records sealed.
Once sealed, no one can gain access to them and they will be completely destroyed five years from the date of sealing.
Juvenile records are not automatically sealed upon your 18th birthday. You must affirmatively petition the juvenile court to have them sealed. You can do this by filing out a form and filing it with the juvenile court in the county in which you were convicted.
Contact the juvenile court in the county you were convicted, and ask them to send you a copy of the form used in that county.
Check to see if they have any special filing requirements such as additional photocopies or the need to serve copies of the petition on any government agencies, and get the correct information for filing by mail. Usually, there is no fee.
If you graduated from the California Youth Authority, your juvenile conviction(s) will have been dismissed as part of your graduation. If you do not petition to have your juvenile records sealed and destroyed, they will remain on your record until your 38th birthday, then they will be destroyed.
Complete and File the Petition(s) and Fee Waiver(s). If you are filing a petition for reducing a felony or a petition for early release from probation or for a dismissal, you will need to call the Clerk of the Superior Court for the county in which you were convicted, and ask them for the following information:
1. Have them send you as many copies of their form (if they have one) as you have convictions in that county.
2. Ask if you need to submit additional photocopies of the petition, and how many?
3. Ask if their rules of court require you to serve copies of your petition on the district attorney and/or probation department?
4. Ask what the correct mailing address is for filing by mail?
Remember, you can only dismiss one conviction at a time. This means you will fill out a separate petition for each conviction that you want to dismiss, but you can file them all at the same time. If you are currently on probation, you will need to deal with that conviction first, then you can proceed with the others. Usually there is a fee to file a petition for dismissal with the court. However, fee waivers are available to people who cannot afford to pay. Click here for court fee and waiver information.
File Your Petition(s) and Fee Waiver(s) With the Court(s) If you are filing a petition for reducing a felony or a petition for early release from probation or a dismissal, you will need to mail (or deliver in person) your filing materials to the Clerk of the Superior Court for the county of your conviction(s).
Be sure to include any supportive materials such as letters of support, school diplomas and/or transcripts, and if applying for early release from probation, include a letter to the judge explaining why you feel you should be released from probation early. At the time you file your papers, the clerk will set a hearing date.
If required in your county, be sure to serve the district attorney and/or probation department.
You will be required to attend the hearing, although for 1203.4 and 1203.4a petitions you may not have to appear. If you are required to attend the hearing BE SURE TO ATTEND. Be on time, and dress for conservatively If you petition is granted, make sure to put the order in a safe place for your records.
If Your Petition(s) is Denied. You may still be able to get your conviction(s) dismissed. After you receive the order from the judge denying your dismissal, you can either go to, or call, the Clerk at the courthouse to see if you can find out why the petition was denied and whether you can fix the problem and re-file.
Certificate of Rehabilitation. If you were sentenced to state prison or sentenced under the authority of the California Department of Corrections you are not eligible for a dismissal under Penal Code Section 1203.4 or 1203.4a.
You may, however, be eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. For eligibility and application requirements contact the Board of Prison Terms, 428 J Street, 6th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814. This is a lengthy process that may necessitate the assistance of a private attorney.
What Will A Dismissal Mean?:
Once all of your convictions have been dismissed:
1. On questions by Private Employers if you are asked if you have every been convicted of a crime, you must respond with “YES-CONVICTION DISMISSED.”
2. On questions by Government Employers or Government Licensing Applications if you are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you MUST respond with “YES-CONVICTION DISMISSED.” In California, government employers and licensing agencies (except for police agencies and concessionaire licensing boards), will treat you the same as if you had never been convicted of any crime.
3. You will not be allowed to own or possess a firearm until you would otherwise be able to do so.
4. Your dismissed conviction(s) can still be used to increase your punishment in future criminal cases.
5. Your prior conviction(s) can still affect your driving privileges.
6. If you have been required to register as a sex offender as a result of a conviction, you have to make a different motion to the court in order to be relieved of this requirement. A dismissal will not relieve you of your duty to register as a sex offender.
DISCLAIMER: THE CONTENT IN THIS ARTICLE IS MERELY INFORMATION AND NOT LEGAL ADVICE. ONLY A QUALIFIED ATTORNEY CAN GIVE LEGAL ADVICE.