As experienced criminal defense attorneys serving the Los Angeles area, one question we hear very frequently is whether it is possible to remove a crime from a client's record. While most people may believe that the process of expungement means that all records of a crime or charges are completely erased, this is not technically true. However, under California Penal Code 1203.4 it is possible release a person of “all penalties and disabilities” resulting from a conviction, essentially clearing that conviction from their record.
Why Seek Expungement?
One of the main reasons our clients seek expungement of criminal offenses is to prevent past mistakes from affecting their ability to secure employment. Under PC 1203.4, individuals whose convictions have been expunged can legally state on most job applications that they have not been convicted of a crime. This code also makes it illegal for a current or potential employer to discriminate against a person based on prior expunged convictions.
An expungement will also prevent courts from impeaching a person's credibility based on prior convictions if they appear as a witness, and it may also help to avoid deportation or other immigration consequences.
Who is Eligible for Expungement?
To qualify for an expungement in California, a person must have successfully completed probation for either a misdemeanor or felony offense or been granted early termination of probation. He or she must also not have been convicted of new crimes since the conviction for the offense to be expunged and must not be serving a sentence for another offense.
If a person has violated his or her probation and seeks expungement, a hearing will be held where expungement is at a judge's discretion. In such cases, there are certain factors that may make a judge more likely to grant expungement, and it could be beneficial to work with an experienced attorney to present the most compelling argument for expungement.
Individuals who have been sent to state prison are not eligible for expungement, nor are individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes such as sex offenses against minors.
Limitations of Expungement
While an expungement may help a person with prior convictions move on and establish a more stable and successful life, there are certain things that an expungement cannot do.
For example, there are certain consequences to convictions that are not overturned through expungement, such as suspension or revocation of a driver's license, restoration of gun rights, or cessation of duty to register as a sex offender.
Furthermore, an expungement does not entirely erase all records of a prior conviction, so this conviction will still appear on state and federal criminal history records. This means that even expunged convictions may be noted as prior convictions (or “strikes” in California) during sentencing for subsequent violations.
Under certain, rare circumstances, it may be possible to have a criminal record or conviction “sealed and destroyed.” This is a separate process from expungement and involves a judge pronouncing a person “factually innocent” of a crime.
Contact us to Learn more about Clearing your Name
If you have been convicted of a crime but have paid your debt to society and wish to have that conviction expunged, you may benefit from working with a criminal defense attorney with in-depth knowledge of California expungement laws and procedures. To learn more about your potential right to clear your name, please contact us to schedule a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in the Los Angeles area.