Everything You Need to Know About Expunging Your Conviction

Having a criminal conviction on your record will likely lead to a number of uncomfortable situations, especially when applying for a job or filling out housing applications. Thankfully, there is a legal solution to this problem and the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Neeraj D. Singh can help.

WHAT IS EXPUNGEMENT?

California Penal Code §1203.4—California’s expungement statute—was enacted to help ease the transition from being “in the system” to resuming your life as a member of society without having to suffer from the bad reputation associated with being a “criminal.” This means when you are asked in a private job interview if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you can confidently answer “No” without worrying about your past coming back to haunt you.

However, there are three situations in which you will be required to answer the above question honestly:

1. If you are running for public office; or

2. If you are applying for a license granted by any state or local agency; or

3. If you are applying to work for the California Lottery commission.

HOW DOES EXPUNGEMENT WORK?

Without getting too technical, expungement allows the judge to set aside your plea or conviction so that you can replace it with a plea of “Not Guilty.” Once this new plea is entered, the judge will then dismiss your case. Despite its effect, expungement does not actually remove all traces of the charges from your record. Instead, expungement results in the charges remaining publicly visible but the conviction—the finding of your guilt or innocence—being removed.

However, as mentioned earlier, there are situations in which your original conviction can still be viewed by the government, and so you are required to answer truthfully when in those situations.

DO I QUALIFY FOR EXPUNGEMENT?

According to 1203.4 PC, anybody who has committed either a felony or a misdemeanor for the first time, and who has not served any prison time, is eligible for expungement. Additionally, in order for expungement to be granted, one of the following must be true:

1.  The offender must have either fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation or be discharged before the termination of the period of probation; or

2. The court, in using its discretion, determines that the offender should be granted this type of relief.

In other words, if you completed all the terms of your probation, your conviction will very likely be expunged. Even if you did violate probation, you may still qualify for expungement depending on the court’s assessment of various factors such as your criminal history, the seriousness of the underlying conviction, and any other evidence that may demonstrate to the court why you deserve to be granted such relief. In either of these scenarios, it is crucial to have an experienced lawyer by your side.

WHAT IF I’M ON PROBATION RIGHT NOW?

California Penal Code Section 1203.3 gives the court discretion to terminate your probation early:

"The court shall have authority at any time during the term of probation to revoke, modify, or change its order...the court may [end probation] at any time when the ends of justice will be [served]."

To get your probation terminated early, it must be shown to the court that you have "reformed" and that you have been on good behavior. Typically, this can be done by:

a.     Showing that you have not picked up any new cases;

b.     Verifying that you have fulfilled all conditions of your probation thus far; and

c.     Providing the court with character letters that you can get from family and friends.