California Expungement of Criminal Records
Section 1203.4 of the California Penal Code allows anyone who meets certain criteria to expunge their record by filing a petition for dismissal. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and were not sentenced to state prison, you are most likely eligible to expunge your criminal record. If you meet the requirements, the court will dismiss the conviction and your criminal record will show that it has, in fact, been dismissed.
If you are on probation, prior to filing you have to either finish probation or petition to terminate your probation early. If you are seeking to have a felony conviction expunged from your record, then you must first have it reduced to a misdemeanor prior to petitioning for dismissal. Rape and sexual assault of a minor are never eligible for a dismissal.
Do I qualify?
If you were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor and were given probation, the court will dismiss your conviction if you: (1) Have finished probation or got an early release; (2) paid all fines and restitution due; (3) you are not on probation for different offense; and (4) are not presently charged with a separate offense.
In the case that you were convicted of a misdemeanor and were not given probation, the court will dismiss your conviction if: (1) A year has passed since your conviction; (2) you fully complied with your sentence; (3) you are not on probation for a different offense; and (4) you have not broken the law since your conviction.
There are situations where whether or not you qualify are less clear and the court will use their own judgment. This may occur when you didn't finish probation or were convicted of a vehicular offense such as a DUI or hit and run. In these cases, you may still receive your dismissal as long as you have paid your fines, and are not serving time for, on probation for, or charged with another offense.
What are the effects of expungement?
One of the main benefits of expungement is that private employers cannot question you about convictions that have been dismissed. However, it does not relieve you from having to disclose a conviction on an application to run for public office or an application to be licensed by a state agency. Though, California agencies are required to treat you as if you have never been convicted if you answer the question "yes" conviction dismissed.
It is important to understand all the limitations of expunging your record. The dismissed conviction can still be used to increase the penalties of subsequent convictions. If you had a felony conviction dismissed, that does not affect your prohibition to possess or own a firearm under California law. Nor will the dismissal of a DUI conviction affect the revocation or suspension of your license.
Where do I start?
If possible, contact the attorney who handled your case to initiate the process of getting your record expunged. Otherwise, the California court system has plenty of resources for people seeking dismissal of prior convictions. See also:
Proposition 36 (California) External link (opens in new window)
California Misdemeanor External link (opens in new window)
California Felony External link (opens in new window)