I Have A Criminal Record in California and It Is Affecting My Life. What Can I Do?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A criminal record can adversely affect your life. It may affect your current or future employment, voting rights, your ability to serve on a jury, professional license status or your ability to obtain most professional licenses, your right to purchase and possess firearms, possible child custody rights, military service, right to hold public office, credibility as a witness in court, college applications and your social status.

Most situations involve criminal records that date back several years to a time when a person was young, inexperienced, using drugs, or simply making bad decisions. Now, the person is doing well and trying to do the right thing. However, the person is facing difficulty getting a job because of the felony conviction on their record. Sometimes people just want a clean record.

An expungement is a legal process of clearing your criminal conviction off of your criminal record. In most instances, it clears your record, reestablishes most of your rights, and in the eyes of the law, ensures that any prior conviction is treated as if it never existed. An experienced attorney can obtain and review your files, evaluate your eligibility and attempt to reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor (if necessary), and then clear your record entirely.

California’s expungement law permits someone convicted of a crime to petition the court to re-open the case, set aside the plea, and dismiss the case. Basically, in order for one to qualify for an expungement, they must have completed probation, paid all fines and restitution, not served a sentence in state prison for the offense, and not currently being charged with a crime. If the requirements are met for eligibility, a court may grant the petition if it finds that it would be in the interest of justice to do so.

A successful expungement will not erase the criminal record, but rather the finding of guilt will be changed to a dismissal. The petitioner then honestly and legally can answer to a question about his criminal history, with some exceptions, that he has not been convicted of that crime.

If you have been conviction of a felony and have successfully completed the terms and conditions, the felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and dismissed. If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, the misdemeanor can be dismissed. If you were arrested and no charges were filed and you are in fact factually innocent, the actual arrest record can be completely sealed.

There are certain requirements that must be met and not all convictions are eligible for an expungement. Even if an expungement is granted and the record is cleared, there are certain exceptions and legal ramifications. (For example, some state licensing will not recognize an expungement). Some priors may be used in later cases as prior conviction enhancements even if expunged. Some other exceptions apply.

Many cases are different and need to be individually reviewed. Often times an attorney can ask for a hearing before the sentencing judge to show the court that the person deserves a second chance. This is an opportunity to go beyond the court paperwork and present compelling information as to why the person should have the record cleared.

You do not have to live your life with the burden and restraints of a criminal conviction.

Content courtesy of The Karpel Law Group.

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