Friday, January 9, 2015

Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record in California

If you've ever been convicted of a crime in California, there may be several options available to help you clean up your criminal record for a fresh start in the new year.

Your criminal record is public.  Anyone who cares to check can quickly and easily access detailed reports regarding any criminal charges that have ever been filed against you, even if you were later acquitted of those charges or the case was dismissed.  These public records will continue to cause you embarrassment, can prevent you from getting hired or promoted, and may also be grounds for loss or denial of a professional license.

Luckily, our office has extensive experience in helping people clean up their criminal records so that they can get back onto their feet and on with their lives.

I've previously written about expungements -- what they can (and can't) do, who qualifies and how the process works.  In a nutshell, an expungment will dismiss an old case against you after you have successfully completed probation and served all other penalties.  An expungement will not completely hide the fact that you once had an criminal charge, but will change aspects of your record so that your criminal history no longer shows a "conviction".

If you're currently on probation, you aren't eligible for an expungement.  You might, however, be eligible for early release from probation.  There is a process for asking the judge to let you off probation early.  This is something we can help you with.  Typically, a judge wants to see that you have completed a majority of your probation (at least 2/3 or 3/4 of the total term), that you have had excellent performance so far while on probation, and that there is some compelling reason that justice would be served by letting you off early (like going back to school or accepting a new job, etc.).

If you've ever been convicted of a felony, there are a couple ways that you might be eligible to have that charge reduced to a misdemeanor.  The first option is called a "17(b) Petition".  17(b) petitions apply when you've been convicted of a crime that is categorized as a "wobbler" -- one that may be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor -- if the DA elected to charge you with a felony.  We may petition the court to later drop that charge to a misdemeanor.  This doesn't work for every felony charge, because not every felony is a "wobbler" (not every felony may alternatively be charged as a misdemeanor.  Drug sales, for example, is a straight felony and cannot be reduced by a 17(b) petition).

Since California voters passed Prop. 47 in November, some felons are now entitled to have their charges reduced to misdemeanors.  Unlike 17(b) petitions, Prop. 47 petitions do not require any showing of "good cause", or a compelling reason why a reduction serves the interest of justice.  For that reason, they may be easier to obtain in some cases than the old-fashion 17(b).  Prop. 47 petitions can be filed at any time -- while a case is pending, while an applicant is currently serving a sentence after conviction, or even after the applicant has been released from custody.  Prop. 47 took many charges that had previously been classified as "wobblers" and reduced them to straight misdemeanors.  Determining a person's eligibility for relief under Prop. 47 can be complicated because the law includes a lot of exceptions and caveats, but we can help evaluate your chances of success.

If you or a loved one has questions about cleaning up your criminal history and starting off the new year with a fresh record, call our office for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.