Expungement in California - Penal Code 1203.4 PC

There is no such thing as a “true expungement in California.” In the classic sense, if you delete a matter, it is completely erased from your record, and no one can see it, including the police. However, suppose the court grants your expungement in California. In that case, someone searching for it will still find the arrest if they have the proper clearance to utilize the Department of Justice's database.

There will be a notation near the charge you were convicted of that says, “dismissed.” But the arrest will still show up as a mark on your record. Expungement of criminal records is covered under California Penal Code Section 1203.4.

Will I Ever Have To Go To Court To Seek An Expungement?

An expungement involves dismissing your case. After you finish your probation, you become eligible for expungement. You cannot dismiss or expunge your case; you're not eligible. An expungement in California does not wipe your criminal record clean. Even though you may get your expungement granted, it still shows on your paper that you had the case and that it got dismissed. An expungement in California is a dismissal, the term used on the paperwork.

You have to be able to show the judges that you completed all the terms and conditions of your probation successfully and that you're no longer on probation. Then, you can file paperwork, pay a fee, and the judge will rule on it.

Expungement in California

A letter will be sent to you saying whether or not your expungement was granted. If it was given, you're able to say on a job application that you were acquitted of the crime because it will read as dismissed. There are exceptions, including running for public office and seeking a state license. You should consult with your attorney if you're unsure.

Your best bet is to hire an attorney to deal with your expungement matter to do it the right way. If you've got a felony conviction, you can often apply to have the case reduced to a misdemeanor and then try to get it expunged. If you get a felony expunged and try to reduce it to a misdemeanor, you might have a problem because the judge may not see the point.

The way you should do it is to hire an attorney or use the attorney who handled your case for you and let them deal with the expungement. You don't necessarily have to go to court. You have to fill the form the right way with the clerk, pay the fee, serve a copy to the prosecuting agency, and then the judge will rule on it.

You'll get a notice in the mail about the judge's ruling. You want to make sure that expungement is the best vehicle for you to use to deal with your case before filing. For example, for immigration purposes, expungement will not help you. It doesn't remove the conviction for immigration. You would want to speak to your attorney about seeking some other remedy. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will explain further below.

An expungement attorney can help you get your criminal record expunged. The expungement will give you a clean slate and a fresh start. However, as already mentioned, the notion of your case being “dismissed” near the charge will still come up. This has led to much confusion as it relates to expungements in California. To have an arrest wiped off of a person's record completely, meaning even removed from the Department of Justice's database, a motion to seal and destroy the arrest record must be filed and argued.

There must be a showing of factual innocence by the defense. The burden of proof shifts, and the shield carries the load. Therefore, the legislature and powers no longer call the procedure an expungement but a dismissal. If you are serious about erasing your matter, your best option is to go to the local courthouse or contact an expungement lawyer. 

Have the Clerk pull the minute order of your case and give you a copy. Bring the certified docket sheet (minute order) to your appointment with one of our attorneys, and we will explain how the process applies to you step by step. Our expungement attorney has done this for many clients and can do it for you.

What Are The Main Reasons An Expungement Would Be Denied?

If you were not placed on probation but instead were sent to prison in your underlying case, you would not be eligible to get your felony expunged or get your felony reduced down to a misdemeanor. Another reason an expungement attempt would be denied would be that you haven't completed your probation. In that scenario, you'd have to file a motion to terminate your probation early, and if the judge granted it, you could do the expungement.

Other examples of expungement being denied could be that you violated the terms and conditions of your probation. You didn't do something you were supposed to do, or you picked up a new criminal case while on probation. The point of the expungement is to argue that you got a criminal conviction, but you finished probation flawlessly. If you weren't all that compliant on your probation, it could be a reason to deny your request for expungement.

I've had cases where my client violated their probation and eventually completed it. If you've had a violation, all is not lost. The key is that you are done with probation. You complied with all the terms and conditions of probation, and you've completed everything you were supposed to. It helps if there has been a gap of time after your probation where you didn't get in trouble.

If your conviction were a strike, that strike would be with you forever. That's why it's so important not to plead to strikes because you cannot get rid of them if you stay in California. You also can't reduce strikes down a misdemeanor most of the time. You have a felony on your record forever. You can't vote or possess weapons, and several other rights are taken away from you.

Can Every Case Be Expunged? 

The answer to whether all criminal cases can be expunged is no. If a person gets prison time as part of their sentence, they will typically not expunge their record.

Also, suppose a person violates their probation significantly. Often, the judges will deny the motion because the person seeking the expungement has not led a law-abiding life and has not honored their probation terms and conditions. If a person was convicted of a crime that is eligible to be expunged and has complied with all of the terms and conditions of probation, then the court will grant their expungement. However, they will still need to contact an expungement lawyer to make that possible.

Other Motions to Minimize the Effects of a Conviction

In the appropriate case, we can often file a motion to reduce a case to a misdemeanor and then dismiss or expunge it at the same time. Not all issues can be reduced to misdemeanors. The only cases that can be reduced to misdemeanors if they started as a felony are called “wobblers.” This means that a particular crime can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. If the offense is a wobbler, we can reduce it to a misdemeanor if you have complied with the terms and conditions of your probation.

If the crime is a straight felony, we will not reduce it to a misdemeanor, but we could dismiss it if you comply with probation's other terms and conditions. Make sure you discuss your case with a San Fernando Valley expungement attorney to understand everything that pertains to your case.

When Can I Seek an Expungement or Dismissal? 

Not every case is eligible to be expunged or dismissed. To have the ability to file for an expungement/dismissal, you must have completed your probation. In other words, do everything the judge told you to do, and the full probationary term must be complete. Many people will file a motion to expungement their case, only to be told by the court that their probation is not over.

However, it is possible to file a motion to terminate your probation early, and if the court grants that motion, you can have your case dismissed. You have the best chance of success with any action in a criminal case if you have an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner.

California Penal Code section 1203.4 PC gives people such as yourself the opportunity to clear up any mess that may have landed on your criminal record. They can do that by getting help from an expungement attorney. When your criminal record is expunged, you will be relieved of any penalties that may have resulted from the conviction. To get your record expunged, you will need the assistance of qualified and experienced criminal lawyers because the process can become long and complicated. 

Not every person with a criminal record is eligible for an expungement. Generally, you would be eligible if you were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony and have completed probation, are not currently facing a crime, are on probation for another crime, or serving a sentence. Make sure you discuss all these issues with an attorney. 

Most sex crimes are not eligible to be expunged, and crimes that are classified as serious or violent felonies will not be eligible to be expunged. A simple phone call will give you the answers to whether your case is eligible to be expunged. If there is any confusion, we will go to the courthouse and pull the minute order related to your case to determine your eligibility.

What Is The Process To Have A Record Expunged In California?

While you can apply for an expungement yourself, you should get an attorney. We can do the necessary paperwork properly with all the information we submitted to the court. Sometimes, we offer the required form to get an expungement or dismissal granted. Other times, we will present the form and then submit a declaration under penalty of perjury with pertinent information that we believe will give you the best chance of getting the expungement granted.

Usually, the best paperwork to bring to your attorney when preparing to apply for dismissal is a minute order of the case. It is your case, all laid out from the beginning to the end, and it will show exactly what happened in the case.

The attorney will see what you were convicted of, what you were ordered to complete, and whether you completed everything successfully. It will contain all the pertinent information to set up the expungement form and file it appropriately.

Depending on what you were convicted of, you may be able to get the case reduced down to a misdemeanor, even if you can't get it dismissed. If you're a juvenile, you can get it sealed and destroyed. If it's only an arrest and if they never filed any case, then you could also be eligible to get that record sealed and destroyed under the appropriate circumstances.

What Shows Up In My Criminal Record After Expungement?

After a dismissal, your record will show that you were arrested for certain crimes, charged with certain crimes, and ultimately dismissed your case. Usually, it shows it was dismissed under Penal Code Section 1203.4. Anyone who understands that penal code will realize that you were convicted. Still, you ultimately were able to get the matter dismissed/expunged because you filed a motion and completed your probation.

There's no requirement to tell law enforcement about a criminal record, even if it's not expunged. The effect of an expungement is taking back your guilty or no contest plea, entering a not guilty plea, and dismissing the case. The only times you have to disclose it are if you're contracting with a lottery, running for public office, or trying to get a state license. If you're applying to work for a private company, then you don't have to let them know that you had a conviction in the case. However, they may find the conviction, so you may want to think twice before saying you have no criminal record.

The bottom line is that if you're going to expunge something, you'll get it dismissed. You want to make sure that it's done right. After doing it wrong and getting the motion denied, I have seen people come to me, making it more challenging to move forward. Sometimes, you want to set things up to get them expunged, and you're not able to do that effectively if you're not a criminal defense attorney because you don't understand all the intricacies surrounding the case.

You want to do it once, do it right, and never do it again. If you have the best chance of successfully getting your case dismissed or expunged, use an attorney who knows what they're doing.

What Does It Mean To Have A Record Expunged In California?

In California, there is no such thing as a true expungement. They don't even call the relief under Penal Code Section 1203.4 an expungement anymore. It's now called a dismissal because if you're successful and can get your matter dealt with by Penal Code Section 1203.4, someone would see if they looked at your criminal record, and the case was ultimately dismissed. There is no longer any such thing as what we would typically think of as an expungement, which is where they completely seal or erase your record.

Not all cases are eligible to be dismissed. All of these issues need to be discussed with your attorney. Let the attorney look at precisely what you were convicted of. Another little thing to look out for is if you were convicted of a felony, you're going to try to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor before you expunge it if that is available to you based on the criminal charges that you pled guilty to or no contest.

Who Is Eligible For An Expungement In California?

Anyone convicted of a crime and has served all their probation or served at least a year of probation can apply for an expungement. If you've only done a year of probation and have a three-year probation period, you have to file a motion to terminate your probation early before trying to dismiss the case. Another requirement is that the crime you were convicted of is eligible to be dismissed.

Lastly, to try to dismiss your case, you have to be in a position where you have complied with all the terms and conditions of probation. However, I have successfully dismissed instances where people have violated them. Lastly, you can't have served a prison sentence. If you get sent to prison, you're not eligible for a dismissal under Penal Code Section 1203.4.

No charge is automatically expunged in California. Call your attorney to get your matter dismissed when probation ends. As long as you did everything you were supposed to do and didn't violate your probation, you will be in an excellent position to be successful.

It is sometimes challenging to get certain cases expunged/dismissed if the person has violated their probation significantly. If you have an issue that's eligible to be expunged and did everything you were supposed to, it becomes a matter of a right to get your case expunged. If you do the paperwork right, you've completed your probation, and you haven't had any violations, then it's expected that the expungement will be granted.

One of the things that the judges do when deciding whether to expunge a matter is run your criminal record. If you're currently on probation for that case or any other case, they will deny the expungement. If you have an open case pending that you're trying to fight, they will reject the expungement. You have to have no issues pending against you and have completed your probation before you will be eligible to attempt to expunge your matter.