Understanding the Ins and Outs of Expungement
It is common knowledge that having a criminal history can cause stress, contribute to negative social stigma, and has the potential for a loss of employment and housing opportunities. The good news is, it is possible to put these problems behind you by having your criminal record expunged.
What is an Expungement?
The definition of the root to the word expungement, "expunge," is to blot out or erase. It's a bit of misnomer in terms of what the legislature allows in California, but still is similar in its effects in regards to modifying the convictions on a criminal record.
Some organizations provide a different definition of expungement. For example, The County of Riverside writes that an expungement involves the re-opening of your criminal case, the setting aside of your conviction, and the subsequent dismissal of that conviction. As a result, the county claims, your criminal record will no longer show a conviction, but your record will show that you were granted an expungement.
California Penal Code 1203.4 permits people convicted of felonies (not all felonies are eligible) and the vast majority of misdemeanors to have their convictions dismissed upon the completion of probation or other sentencing. This is not automatic, and is best accomplished using an attorney. Once you have completed all sentencing satisfactorily, your sentencing has been you can begin the expungement process.
People often become confused when they hear the word expungement. Since the definition of expungement is to erase, they are mistaken to think that their criminal records will be, literally, erased. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. However, the dismissal of a conviction can lead to a perviously convicted person can greatly improve the quality of their life.
So, what is an expungement? A criminal record expungement is the process by which your criminal convictions are dismissed. This dismissal does not change the fact that you were convicted. In fact, court records will still reflect that you were convicted. An expungement will add to the court record by stating that the conviction was dismissed. What remains in the court record? Everything that was there before you pursued an expungement.
There is nothing you can do about court records. Here's what an expungement allows you to say: "My conviction(s) was dismissed." Still, its better than having to say "I have a conviction on my record."
Possibility of Expungement in Your State
Depending on laws within your state, the crime you commit may or may not be eligible for expungement.
In some states, all records that are held by the court, and public departments, relating to minor incidents or convictions can be expunged. In Colorado and Utah for instance, many types of crimes can be expunged.
Even in such states, a lot of factors are taken into consideration when it comes to granting expungement after a conviction. Sixteen states can grant expungement of convictions; in the majority of those states, like California, you can deny ever being charged with a crime on a job application for a private employer.
Other states, like Wyoming, do not allow expungement, while states like Oklahoma only expunge arrest records. However, even states that have rigid expungement rules allow for some leeway if a case is dismissed, and the court can find grounds for granting expungement.
How does an expungement work?
An expungement under PC 1203.4 or 1203.4(a) can allow a person with convictions on their record to have those convictions dismissed. This is a huge relief for someone with previous convictions who is applying for a job or in search of rental housing. Furthermore, the dismissal of a conviction is a weight lifted off of the shoulders.
There is no blanket rule that governs the expungement process in the US; the process is different from state to state. Even within the same state, certain nuances apply, which mean that expungement is taken on a case by case basis.
When your criminal record is expunged, it means that your record of arrest and conviction will not be visible to the public. In fact, in certain states, after your record is expunged, you do not have to disclose that you have an arrest record or have been convicted of any of the expunged crimes.
For your record to be expunged, you must meet the below requirements:
- You must have satisfactorily completed your sentence
- You must complete your probationary period and fulfill all probationary requirements as required by the court (this is part of your sentencing)
- You cannot be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor during or after your probation
- Some states look at the number of convictions or incidents on your record, and have set statutory limits on the combinations of felonies and/or misdemeanors that can be expunged
- In most states, the severity of your conviction must be a misdemeanor, but can, in some cases be a felony
- There can be no proceedings pending against you
- When either a not guilty or guilty verdict has been issued, depending on the state and surrounding circumstances
- Though there are differences in expungement laws in every state, there are some crimes that cannot be expunged in most cases. They include:
- Crimes of a sexual nature such as rape, sexual battery or sexual imposition
- Sexual offenses against a child, such as obscenity, pornography, and rape
Call our law office for a free evaluation of your conviction dismissal today.
- Expungement of Felonies, Misdemeanors and Infractions
- Housing and Employment After a Criminal Conviction Expungement
- Obtaining a Copy of Your Criminal Record in Orange County, California
- Who Can Check Your Criminal History
- Juvenile Record Sealing and Expungement
- Know When to Petition the Court for Expungement