The presence of a prior criminal conviction can negatively influence various aspects of your life. Having a record can deny you an employment opportunity or even admission to a school of your choice. Expungement is based on the Penal Code Section 1203.4, which states that a person can appeal to the court to withdraw a prior guilty conviction. If the court agrees, the case is reopened, and the allegations might be set aside. Note that this does not mean that the whole case gets wiped from your record because the arrest remains. If you or your loved one has been convicted in a misdemeanor or felony lawsuit in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will help you in getting the case expunged from your record. While expungement in California is complex, the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help you get a favorable outcome.
When is Section 1203.4 Applicable?
Penal Code Section 1203.4 can be applied in any lawsuit whereby probation was offered, including misdemeanors or felony. Upon the termination of the probation or expiry, the defendant gets an opportunity to get the criminal conviction expunged when all terms are satisfied. The procedure of applying for the expungement is stipulated in the statute. The petitioners should not be serving probation for any offense or sentence. He or she should not be charged with the commission of any crime.
Types of Relief
Expungement has different types of relief provided depending on the form of a conviction. Other factors that influence the relief provided include the kind of sentence issued, the age of the accused, and evidence of factual innocence. Note that in Los Angeles, CA, criminal cases are defined by the type of imposable punishment.
For example, misdemeanors are classified as offenses that are punishable by fines and custody in state prison. Wobblers entail crimes that are punishable by up to a year's sentence in a county jail or state prison.
What Expungement Cannot Do
The idea of your criminal records being expunged is exciting and one to look forward to. However, not all cases are expunged. Such cases are as follows:
In California law, certain crimes are 'priorable,' meaning that they can enhance your punishment if arrested for a similar crime. While petty theft is considered a misdemeanor, a second offense might be punished as a wobbler. If you get arrested for a particular crime with a similar prior offense, the expungement of the latter will not defend the person from being charged with a felony.
Possession of Guns
Probation for certain offenses prevents an individual from owning a firearm for a specified period. While the case might be eligible for expungement, the gun ownership rights cannot be restored.
The statute affirms that an expungement does not prevent a prior DUI conviction from being used. Being arrested for a DUI conviction within ten years after your first arrest will make you a second-time DUI offender regardless of the expungement.
In particular cases, the probation might be granted on the condition that the defendant receives lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Benefits of Expungement
While the penal code does not offer much relief as most individuals desire, it has a positive influence, especially in job applications.
- Expungement increases your chances of securing employment. According to California Law, employers cannot implement unfair means to dismiss or deny employment opportunities because of your prior conviction.
- An expungement also increases your chance to acquire a state professional license.
- It also prevents associated consequences such as deportation, which are linked to immigration.
- An expungement also makes you credible to a court that, when needed to act as a witness.
Applying and Getting an Expungement
The first step of applying for expungement is meeting various conditions as stipulated by law. A person qualifies for expungement under penal code section 1203.4 if:
- He or she was arrested on misdemeanor and specific forms of felonies.
- The defendant was provided with probation.
- The petitioner is not under any probation time and has met all the associated terms and conditions.
- He or she is not serving prison time for any offense.
- He or she is not under probation for another crime.
- The individual has settled all the court fines and restitution.
Meeting these conditions makes you eligible to petition the court for the dismissal of your criminal record. Note that the process cannot commence before the total completion of the probation time. In most cases, it takes between one and two months for the case to be expunged. Various steps are required in expunging a case though none require you to appear in court. Expungement does not clean your record but leads to the replacement of the guilty plea to a non-guilty plea. Therefore, the case is dismissed, and it is as if the conviction did not occur. If you choose to pursue the expungement processes on your own, the first step is to get a copy of your criminal record. If one is still serving probation, you can petition the court to terminate it early. If the court agrees, then you proceed to settle all fines and restitution as well as the dismissal of the conviction.
Expungement of a Felony
The only felonies that qualify for expungement under the California law are those that could have qualified as misdemeanors. One way to identify whether your conviction qualified for expungement is to assess the sentencing. If it affirms that the offense was punishable by prison or a term of less than one year, it probably qualifies for expungement. Expunging these convictions requires you to petition the court to reduce the charges. In this case, you need to prove to the judge that you learned your lesson and rehabilitated your life accordingly.
Certain types of felony convictions depend on the sentencing provided by the court. A sentence that involves a county jail time and probation requires you to file for two petitions. Penal Code 17b is the basis of the first petition seeking to de-escalate the felony to a misdemeanor. Penal Code Section 1203.4 is the framework of the second petition and aims to make the court dismiss the misdemeanor conviction against you. Note that the process is direct though it might be influenced by how the court processes your documents. If the felony involved a prison sentence, you only qualify for expungement if you have resided in that county for five years. Note that such an individual follows a different procedure because he or she needs to file a petition for a certificate of RehabilitationRehabilitation and pardon. You also need to prove that you have rehabilitated your life and are making sufficient effort to change. Therefore, it is upon the judge to decide whether your charges will be dismissed to proceed for dismissal.
It is crucial to hire an experienced attorney or a legal professional to appear on your behalf. Therefore, it is essential to hire an experienced attorney who will assist you in navigating the complex Californian criminal law system. Upon the completion of the process, you have the right to say 'no' to anyone who asks whether you have a criminal history.
In many circumstances, a California criminal defense lawyer can accelerate the expungement procedure by pursuing multiple motions at a go. The attorney can pursue a proceeding seeking an early termination of probation that the court can grant as long as the petitioner adhered to the terms and conditions of his or her probation. In the same proceeding, the attorney can ask the court to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor. This can occur if the felony can be categorized as a wobbler, which is an offense that the prosecutor could have filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. Ultimately, the attorney can use the same proceeding to expunge a conviction.
Expungement of a Misdemeanor
The California law provides guidelines for expunging a misdemeanor. First, you need to get a copy of your criminal record, fill, and submit the CR-180 form, which is a petition for dismissal. The appeal must be forwarded to the county of conviction. Note that expungement cases require timely paperwork, and the petitioner is required to provide the prosecutor with at least 15 days' notice before the hearing to assess the case.
Applying for an expungement petition in California attracts a fee of between $100 and $400. The granted cost is dependent on the courthouse where the petition is submitted. With the court expenses, hiring a criminal defense attorney will range between $400 and $1400 per criminal case, and for complicated cases, the cost can range between $1000 and $4000. Note that the costs of hiring an attorney vary, and before choosing one, you should consider whether they provide competent offers.
Difference Between Expungement and Sealing of Records
According to California's Penal Code Section 1203.4, sealing and destroying arrest records is different from expunging. Your arrest record in California can be sealed and destroyed if you were arrested and the prosecutor failed to file for criminal charges, or the court dismissed the case. Sealing also happens if a jury acquitted you or the conviction was dismissed after an appeal.
Types of Expungement
Expungement proceedings are broad. There are various classifications to which they are narrowed down to. These categories are based on the charges brought forward against you.
1. DUI and 'Wet' Reckless Expungement
A DUI or a wet reckless conviction is among the most embarrassing criminal records one can have in his or her life. Unlike other types of offenses, a DUI conviction can occur to anybody, but it does not need to stay on your record forever. Under the PC 1230.4, an experienced lawyer navigates the California criminal law system to convince the court to expunge a DUI conviction. Note that DUI cases differ, and skilled attorneys take time to understand the unique aspects of each. This provides them with a chance to implement a customized approach to the case hence increasing the likelihood of success. California law allows an individual previously convicted with a DUI or wet reckless to get the conviction dismissed.
2. Infraction Expungement
While infractions are considered less severe than a misdemeanor or felony conviction, they can still appear on background checks and cause you to lose an employment opportunity. For example, an employer will be less likely to employ a person convicted of petty theft or a related offense. The reason is that it dents your morality, and it is essential to get it expunged. Hiring an experienced attorney is critical to ensure you get the best outcome in your case. In this case, all public and private databases where background checks are processed are updated within thirty days after getting the infraction expungement.
Sealing of Juvenile Record
Many people assume that their juvenile in California will automatically get sealed when they turn 18 years. However, the only way the record gets sealed is if you take appropriate actions. Such a record appears on background checks both on private and public avenues. Considering that there are no two similar cases, your attorney should take time to learn about the case details. The move allows them to construct persuasive arguments to provide you with the best result.
Sealing of Arrest Record
This type of record sealing can occur if you were arrested but never convicted of a crime. If nothing is done, the arrest can remain on your record for the rest of your life. It can potentially deny you an employment opportunity because it can appear on private and public background checks. Also, if there were charges against you and the case was dismissed, such charges will remain on your record for the rest of your life. Fortunately, some laws can help you get the arrest record and all the associated information sealed. Hiring a skilled attorney enables you to get the best outcome.
Gun Rights Restoration after a Felony
If you are convicted of a felony, your life can be negatively impacted in various ways. One aspect is the fundamental constitutional right to own a gun. Note that not all hope is lost after a felony conviction, and with a skilled attorney, you may restore your firearm rights. In this case, there are two aspects:
1. A Sentence in a State Prison
There are limited options for repossessing your gun ownership rights if you were sentenced to state prison. The only option is to acquire a certificate of Rehabilitation. If this is granted, one gets an automatic application for a pardon with the governor's office. Note that the Certificate of Rehabilitation does not restore the right to own a gun on its own. It needs to be accompanied by a governor's pardon.
2. No Prison Sentence
A felony conviction that does not lead to sentencing provides you with an opportunity to restore the right to own a gun. If it is a wobbler or a sentence that qualifies under Prop 64, an attorney can file a motion with the court to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. If the court agrees, then it is likely that your gun ownership rights would be restored. However, if the offense was a straight felony, the only option available to restore your gun possession rights is to get the case expunged. The petitioner should also apply for a Rehabilitation certificate and obtain a pardon from the governor's office.
Gun Ban Because of Domestic Violence
The Lautenberg Act strips away your right to possess a gun. At any federal stage, you are banned from owning a firearm if you are convicted with any form of violent crime against your family members, including your wife, children, and other relatives. Unfortunately, there is no way to evade this federal ban. However, your gun rights might not be affected if the violent crime did not involve our wife and children.
Marijuana Case Under Prop 64
If you have ever been convicted of a marijuana offense, Proposition 64 provides you with a basis of clearing your record. In 2016, the California Legislature enacted The Adult Use of Marijuana under Proposition 64. This made the use of marijuana legal in most circumstances. Most marijuana cases in California have been reduced to a misdemeanor or even decriminalized altogether. However, the relief is not automatic, and therefore, you should apply for a motion in court to get it. An experienced attorney will help you reduce a felony conviction under Prop 64 and restore all your civil liberties such as the right to possess a gun. When a marijuana felony conviction prevents you from owning a gun Prop, 64 restores your second amendment rights. An experienced attorney should implement an individualized approach to pursue Prop 64 felony reduction.
Proposition represents an initiative for the reduction of penalties for certain crimes. Prop 47 stipulates that certain felony crimes should now be charged and sentenced as misdemeanor crimes. Note that the proposition also applies to a person who was previously convicted with such a crime. If you were convicted of one of these offenses, an attorney could help you file a petition asking the court to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor for all purposes and interests. Some of these crimes include:
- second-degree burglary
- Receiving stolen property
- grand theft
- check fraud
- possessing concentrated marijuana
- possessing a controlled substance
If you or your loved one is serving a prison sentence because of any of the above penalties, then an attorney can petition the court under Prop 47 to have the crime re-sentenced. The move is critical because your prison term can be terminated and can be replaced with misdemeanor probation.
Can an Expunged Case Affect My Future?
In the modern internet era, it is difficult to erase a case from history. While the court might agree to dismiss the case out of the records, internet platforms such as Google and news archives might not expunge the information. Employers can turn to private databases to conduct background checks on job candidates rather than searching your information on state databases. Entities have downloaded the court databases and have stored them in their databases. Expungement allows you to leave the box blank if an employment application asks whether you have ever been convicted of a crime. If you are not a citizen, an expunged offense can still get you deported. An immigration law affirms that conviction with the objective of deportation entails any instance when an individual pleads guilty to a crime, and punishment is imposed. Note that even if the record is expunged, it can still be implemented as a basis to remove you from the country.
The Need for an Attorney
California's expungement laws are complex and can be confusing. The associated procedure can be complicated and time-consuming because they require multiple hearings.
If you have the time and patience to pursue the process, you can do it yourself. However, if you have other engagements and would like to evade the hassle, it is crucial to hire an attorney with vast experience with California's expungement laws.
It is essential to hire a reputable attorney, and this is done by checking for particular attributes. Among the first requirements of a qualified attorney is an individual who is licensed to practice law and has a good record with the California State Bar. He or she must also have a long history with expungement cases in California and have a great rating with AVVO. The attorney should also have excellent reviews for their website.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
While expunging records does not solve all the problems that people who have been convicted experience, it is crucial to help a person access life necessities, including employment, housing, and education, among others. If you have ever been convicted of felony, wobbler, or misdemeanors in California, the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will help you get your case expunged as long as it meets the requirements. Our team has experience in navigating the California criminal law system to ensure that your records are dismissed and ensure that you confidently restore your civil liberties. Contact our offices at 310-564-2605 today.