Having a criminal record in California does not necessarily mean that an individual has been convicted of a crime. Anyone who is arrested but is not subsequently charged with or convicted of an offense may have the incident become part of their criminal record. Thus, the mere act of being arrested, even if no charges were ultimately filed, may appear on an individual’s record, and have adverse effects later, such as negatively impacting an opportunity to get a job.
Here are some answers to ten frequently asked questions about expungement. The following are the first five:
*What is an expungement?
Expungement is a post-conviction procedure available under California statute, typically, California Penal Code § 1203.4. According to this statute, an expungement releases an individual from virtually “all penalties and disabilities” arising out of the conviction.
*How does someone qualify for expungement?
An individual must have successfully completed probation and not been sentenced to state prison. An individual must have paid any court-ordered fines, fees, and restitution, and may not be charged with any new offenses or on probation for another conviction. However, if the defendant served time in state prison, but would have served it in county jail had the crime been committed after implementation of “Realignment” under Proposition 47, the charge may be expunged.
*Can a felony be expunged?
Yes. However, only some felonies are eligible for a reduction, and if a defendant was sentenced to prison, rather than jail, the felony cannot be reduced. Many felony convictions may even be reduced to misdemeanors before expungement, which will restore most of the rights forfeited by a felony conviction, even right related to the possession of firearms.
*Is there a waiting period to expunge a criminal conviction?
No, there is no waiting period for an expungement. As long as the defendant completed probation or obtained an early termination of probation, an expungement is immediately available. An experienced criminal record-clearing attorney knowledgeable of the process under § 1203.4 may expeditiously begin expungement proceedings.
*Aren’t most criminal convictions automatically removed?
No, most criminal convictions are not automatically expunged. Minimally, They remain on an individual’s official Department of Justice criminal record for the duration of the individual’s life. This does not even apply to marijuana or drug convictions. Offenders charged with simple possession of marijuana may have their conviction automatically expunged after two years.
John Patrick Dolan has over forty years of experience helping well-intentioned Californians clear their criminal records and continue making present contributions to the Coachella Valley as valued members of the community. Call the Dolan Law Firm today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.