Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Get an Expungement in California

If you've been convicted of a crime in California, you may be eligible to clean up your record with an expungement.  Expungements are governed by section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.  Once granted, they have the effect of dismissing a case against you after you've finished serving all your penalties.  After your record has been expunged, you can honestly tell most employers that you have no criminal convictions in your past. Like everything else in the law, though, there are some exceptions.  I'll get into those below.

In order to qualify for an expungement, you must meet the following criteria:

1) You were convicted of a crime in California (infraction, misdemeanor or felony, with a few exceptions).
2) You were NOT sentenced to state prison (county jail is OK, but state prison is not).
3) You received probation and you successfully completed your term of probation without any violations, OR you received a terminal disposition (no probation) and you've waited more than one year since the conviction, OR you violated probation, but there's a very compelling reason why the judge should make an exception for you and grant the expungement anyway.
4) You have no other active, open or pending criminal cases, and
5) You're not currently on probation or parole in any other cases.

If all of these factors are satisfied, congratulations!  You're probably eligible to petition the court for an expungement.

To start the process of your expungement petition, you (or your attorney) must complete a couple documents, called a "CR-180" and a "CR-181", available here.

After filling out those forms completely, they must both be properly served on the DA who prosecuted your case and they must be filed with the court where your case was heard.  Service must be made by someone else (you may not serve your own documents).  The person who mails or delivers the documents to the DA must also complete a "proof of service" form and include that document when the petition is filed with the court.  The court's filing fee for expungement petitions varies from $60.00-$150.00.

Once your petition packet has been served on the DA and filed with the court, the DA has 15 days to respond with any reasons that they believe the petition should not be granted (for example, if they believe that the petitioner did not successfully complete probation or if they believe that the petitioner has some other active, open cases.  The process can get complicated if the petitioner has a common name and other people with the same name have recent criminal activity).

Next, a judge will review your petition and the DA's response.  Typically, if you are clearly eligible and the DA has no opposition, the judge will simply sign the proposed expungement order and will return it to you by mail within 6-8 weeks.

If the DA opposes your expungement petition, the court will schedule a hearing for both sides to appear before a judge and to explain why the expungement should or should not be granted.

After your expungement petition is granted and signed by a judge, your criminal record will be amended to show that your old case has been dismissed.  An expungement will not completely erase the case from your record, but it will erase the fact that you pleaded "guilty" or "no contest", or that you were convicted by a jury.  For most private employers, that's as good as if the whole matter never happened.  As I mentioned above, though, there are some exceptions.  If you apply to be a police officer or if you seek to enter some profession that is licensed by the state (e.g., doctor, lawyer, nurse, dentist, notary, bail bondsman, contractor, insurance broker, Realtor, etc.), the licensing body responsible for that profession may still consider the prior conviction.  The same is true if you own a market and you apply to sell lottery tickets.  For some reason, the state lottery does not recognize California expungements.

This is the expungement process in a nutshell, but it's obviously a lot more complicated than that.  If you have questions about your eligibility for an expungement in California, call our office for a free consultation.  I'll never charge you a penny to answer your questions.  If this entire process sounds too complicated or time-consuming, let us handle everything for you.  We have extensive experience with expungements in all Southern California courts, including in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego Counties.  Our fees are competitive and depend on the nature of your case.

Other firms will quote you a low price to get started, then they'll bury you in hidden fees.  We never charge hidden fees.  I will quote you a fixed price up front.  I will also be personally responsible for your case until it is resolved.  You will never be handed off to an intern or a less-experienced junior partner.

Invest in your future by cleaning up your past.  Don't waste another day if your old mistakes are standing between you and a better job.  Call for a free consultation (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Expungement Attorney