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A criminal conviction can have long-term collateral consequences. It can impact your ability to live and work where you desire and negatively affect child custody cases and other matters.

Expungement offers a way to “clean” your criminal record to give you another chance. It allows you to live your life without past mistakes haunting you.

Overview of Expungement Laws in California 

Overview of Expungement Laws in California

When you expunge a criminal record, you destroy, strike out, or obliterate the records and information. Expungement is the process of removing a conviction from a person’s criminal history. 

Expungement laws vary by state. Some states entirely wipe away a criminal conviction when it is expunged. It is as if the person was never arrested for a crime. However, California does not use this process when it expunges criminal records.

Instead, California’s expungement process is referred to as “cleaning your record.” Instead of wiping away the arrest and conviction, the expungement process clears the guilty plea or verdict from your record. 

The criminal charges remain on your record. However, the expungement changes your guilty verdict or plea deal to not guilty and dismisses the case. 

Anyone reviewing your criminal record would see that you were arrested for an offense, but it now appears that you were never convicted of the crime. In other words, expungement lets you respond that you were never “convicted” of a crime when completing employment, lease, and other documentation. 

The Expungement Process Under California’s Clean Slate Act

California lawmakers streamlined the expungement process by passing the Clean Slate Act in October 2019. For many individuals, the expungement process became automatic if they were convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony.

To be eligible for the automatic expungement process under the new law, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Completed probation without any probation violations on your record
  • No pending criminal charges
  • There is no requirement to register as a sex offender
  • Not currently on probation or parole for another criminal offense
  • The offense in question is not excluded from eligible offenses for automatic expungement 

The new law also provides for sealing records of expunged convictions. The court clerk cannot release an expunged criminal record that has been sealed to a private individual or enterprise without a court order. 

The automatic expungement process under the Clean Slate Act is free. The law removes the financial barrier some individuals who want to expunge their criminal convictions face. 

If you are eligible for an expungement under the new law, you are not required to file a petition with the court or pay a fee. The California Department of Justice notifies the court that your case is eligible for expungement.

Expungement of Criminal Convictions in California Prior to January 1, 2021

Unfortunately, the Clean Slate Act only applies to criminal convictions on or after January 1, 2021. If your conviction was before that date, you must use the expungement process provided in California Penal Code §1203.4. Expungement through this process does not seal your criminal conviction.

Individuals must meet the following criteria to be considered for expungement:

  • A state court entered the guilty verdict or plea
  • You were not required to serve time in a state prison for your conviction 
  • At least one year has passed since the criminal conviction if the judge did not include probation as a part of the sentence 
  • You completed all conditions and terms of your probation, including paying restitution, attending treatment programs, performing community service, etc.
  • There are no probation violations on your record
  • You are not currently charged with, serving probation for, or serving time for another crime

Some criminal offenses do not qualify for expungement. Speak with an attorney to determine whether you’re eligible.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to File a Petition for Expungement?

The expungement process under the Penal Code requires you to pay fees when you file your petition with the court. Therefore, it is wise to seek advice from an experienced California expungement attorney before you begin the process. Otherwise, you might waste your time and money if you are not eligible for an expungement.

Furthermore, the court holds a hearing for your petition for expungement. You must convince the judge that you deserve to have your criminal conviction expunged. An experienced attorney understands how to present evidence at the hearing to prove that expungement is justified in your case.

Your attorney may present several reasons why your record should be expunged, including:

  • You complied with all terms of your probation and completed your probation successfully
  • Expungement will allow you to seek better employment opportunities 
  • You want to apply for student loans so you can continue your education
  • You cooperated throughout your case and accepted your punishment
  • You want to obtain a professional license or advance your career
  • You meet all requirements for an expungement of your criminal conviction

An experienced criminal defense attorney will stand up for your rights in court and give you the best chance of having your conviction expunged. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our San Jose Expungement Lawyers

Do you have questions about an expungement in California? If so, contact our law firm today at (408) 217-8818 to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney. Our Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys legal team is here to protect your freedom, reputation, and future. 

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