Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Clean Up Your Criminal Record

If old criminal convictions are haunting you and making it difficult to find a job (or a better job), you may be eligible for an expungement, or a reduction of the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.  You might even be entitled to have your entire arrest record sealed from the public.

Dismiss Old Convictions

California law allows individuals to have old cases dismissed after they finish serving probation.  Once your case is expunged, you can honestly say that you have no criminal convictions in your background.  An expungement does not erase or seal your criminal record, it simply changes the record so that the case shows up as a dismissal rather than a conviction.  Employers may not legally discriminate against job applicants whose cases have been dismissed (in most cases).

There are lots of criteria that you must meet before the court will grant an expungement.  For example, you cannot have any other open, pending criminal cases, and you cannot be currently on probation.  Call us for a free evaluation to discuss your eligibility for an expungement.

Terminate Probation Early

If you ARE currently on probation, you may apply to terminate your probation early.  Section 1203.3 of the Penal Code gives judges in California the authority to release you from probation at any time. Judges are looking for "good cause" to do so.  "Good cause" usually means some compelling argument that the deal you previously accepted is no longer fair, or some showing that the interests of justice would be served by granting you leniency.  Once a judge agrees to cut your probation short, then you may immediately become eligible to apply for an expungement.

Judges are usually reluctant to release defendants from probation early, so it helps to have a qualified, local attorney help prepare your 1203.3 petition.  A qualified, local attorney (like myself) understands how to present your argument so that the court is likely to grant your request.  

Clear Old Warrants

If your performance on probation has been less than excellent, or if you have outstanding warrants, call us to discuss your options.  Unfortunately, old warrants will never simply go away on their own.  They will continue to plague you until you take some steps to resolve the issues.  The longer you wait to address your warrant, the less sympathy you're likely to receive from a judge.  The statute of limitations does not apply to active warrants.

There may still hope, though, to recall your old warrant and to get you back onto your feet without necessarily going to jail.  Stop procrastinating and looking over your shoulder -- clear up your old warrants so that you can get on with your life.

Reduce a Felony to a Misdemeanor

California law also provides a few different procedures for reducing old felony convictions to misdemeanors.  Under PC 17(b), a judge can retroactively reduce some "wobblers" (like domestic violence or possessing a dangerous weapon) in the interests of justice.  A "wobbler" is a crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony at the discretion of the prosecutor.  If you were convicted of a wobbler as a felony, section 17(b) of the Penal Code could provide an opportunity to get that felony off your record.  17(b) reductions can even restore firearms rights in some cases.  If you have an old wobbler on your record, call us to see whether or not you might qualify to reduce that charge to a misdemeanor.

Prop. 47 provides another opportunity for individuals to reduce some felony convictions to misdemeanors.  Since voters approved that measure, many crimes that were formally classified as felonies or wobblers have now been reclassified as ordinary misdemeanors.  If you have old felony convictions for theft, drug possession, fraud, forgery, receiving stolen property, commercial burglary or writing bad checks, you might qualify for a reduction under Prop. 47.

Since Prop. 64 legalized the cultivation, use and possession of marijuana in California, people with old marijuana-related convictions may also apply to have those charges reduced or dismissed under a separate procedure.

Seal Arrest Records

Since January 1, 2018, Californians can even apply to have their old arrest records sealed.  The procedures described above can change your record of criminal convictions so that cases show up as misdemeanors rather than felonies, or so that those cases appear as "dismissals" rather than "convictions".  PC 851.91 now goes one step further -- eligible applicants can hide the fact that they were ever even arrested.

If you or a loved one has questions about clearing old warrants, cleaning up your criminal record, reducing old felonies to misdemeanors, or sealing your arrest record, call our office for a free consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.

We have extensive experience helping our clients get back onto their feet in Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino.

Thanks for reading.