Record Expungement: How to Clear Your Record
Everyone makes mistakes, but not all mistakes need to follow people around for the rest of their lives. Although California law prohibits employers from hiring, promoting, or firing employees on the basis of arrest records alone, they are free to judge applicants and employees based on criminal convictions. And as much as we would like to think otherwise, those judgments can have a significant impact on a person’s life.
Thankfully, California law also allows people to clear their records (depending on the details of the conviction). That’s a really big deal, considering that record expungement can effect not just employment prospects, but rental eligibility, second amendment rights, the ability to run for public office, and more.
Who is eligible for record expungement?
Not all convictions can be cleared from the record, but here are some scenarios that would allow you to file a petition to have your conviction dismissed:
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor and are still on probation (you can also request early release from probation)
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor and have successfully completed probation
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor or infraction and were never given any probation at all
Felonies require the extra step of having the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor before filing to dismiss, and if you served time in a state prison or were put under the authority of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, you’ll need to file a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon.
What other situations are eligible for dismissal?
Diversion charges can be dismissed
If you were referred to a diversion program but you did not complete your requirements, the conviction will remain on your record until you file to dismiss it.
Marijuana possession is eligible for expungement
Under new California law, all convictions of marijuana possession for personal use after Jan. 1, 1976 will be erased from your record automatically. However, if the conviction involved cultivation, sales or transportation, your record will remain.
Juvenile records can be expunged
While any convictions before your 18th birthday will not appear on your adult criminal record, you must petition to have them sealed. Five years after being sealed, the records will be destroyed.
Which crimes are not eligible to be cleared from your record?
- Any misdemeanor or infraction for failure to obey a peace officer, fireman, or traffic officer while driving (CA Vehicle Code section 42002.1)
- Any convictions for sexual crimes involving young victims (CA Penal Code sections 286(c), 288, 288.5, 288a(c), 289(j), or 261.5(d).
When can you file for a dismissal?
If you received probation for a conviction, you can file for dismissal if:
- You successfully completed probation or obtained early release
- You have paid all the fines, restitution, and reimbursements ordered by the court as part of your sentence
- You are not currently serving another sentence or on probation for another offense
- You are not currently charged with another offense
If you did not receive probation, you can file for dismissal if:
- Your conviction was a misdemeanor or an infraction
- It has been at least one year since the date you were convicted
- You have complied fully with your sentence
- You are not currently serving another sentence
- You are not currently charged with another offense
Even if you meet all the eligibility requirements, it’s still up to the court to decide if your conviction should be dismissed. That’s why it’s best to offer as much information as possible to convince the court a dismissal is in the interest of justice.
How do you file for dismissal?
First, obtain a copy of your criminal record and compile all the details of your conviction including:
- Case number
- Date of conviction
- Code name and section number the law you violated
- Whether there was a verdict or plea deal (and whether it was “guilty” or “no contest”)
- Any fines, restitution or reimbursement
- Name of the prison where you served your sentence (and your release date)
- Whether you were released on parole, and what date parole ended
Next, mail or deliver in person your filing materials to the clerk of the county superior court where you were convicted, including supportive materials such as letters of support, school diplomas or transcripts. If you’re also applying for early release from probation, you will need to include a letter to the judge that explains why you feel you should be released from probation early.
The court will likely send you a notice to appear in court (not all dismissals require an appearance), and if you do, be sure to dress conservatively and behave respectfully. If your petition is granted, put the order in a safe place for your records.
What happens if your petition to clear your record is denied?
A denial to dismiss isn’t always the final word, so don’t despair. You can contact the clerk at the courthouse to find out why your petition was denied and whether you can address the issues and re-file. Be respectful, take notes, follow instructions, and thank the clerk for their help.
Want to start your life fresh? Salmu Law Firm in San Diego & El Cajon can help.
Filing for dismissal of a conviction is a lengthy, involved process, so it might be in your best interest to obtain the services of an experienced attorney. You made a mistake and have paid your dues, and you’ve worked hard to turn your life around. At Salmu Law in San Diego, we understand the importance of living free of the past, and we would be honored to help you fight for your new tomorrow.