If you have a criminal record, it can impact your ability to find a job, keep custody of your children or apply for a credit card or loan. By pursuing an expungement in California, you can proactively avoid these issues. As you may already know, having a criminal record does not mean you have committed a serious crime. People make mistakes and the impact of your conviction should not negatively impact you for the rest of your life.
Benefits of a California Expungement
There are many benefits to expunged convictions. First and foremost, it will give you peace of mind. As expressed in the California Penal Code 1203.4, expungement absolves a person of all discrimination and penalties that can result from a conviction. Other benefits include:
- Finding a job. Most employers today require a background check before hiring a job applicant. These background checks will report arrest records, convictions and probation status. With an expungement, your criminal record will not appear during the background check. In addition, employers may ask if an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. After your conviction has been expunged, you can lawfully answer “no” when asked this question.
- Finding a place to live. Like employers, landlords conduct background checks when a potential tenant applies to one of their properties. If they discover a criminal record, they may deny your application or charge you a higher rent and/or deposit. When your case is expunged, you will have ease in applying for housing.
- Getting a loan. A loan can give you financial security after serving your sentence. Some loan agencies believe those with criminal records have difficulty paying back their loans. This may lead to your application being denied or your loan incurring higher interest rates. Your ability to secure a loan will not be impacted by your conviction if expunged.
- Seeking state professional licenses. Many professions require a state license to practice. Examples include those in the legal or medical professions, contractors and real estate professionals. If you are asked about convictions while applying for a state professional license, you are still required to disclose any convictions. However, applicants whose records have been expunged are more likely to be granted a state license by state licensing agencies.
- Helping you in court. If you are on the witness stand in civil court, your credibility is an important factor in the verdict of the case. An opposing attorney cannot use a previous expunged conviction to question your credibility on the stand. Civil court cases include small claims, family law, probate cases and landlord/tenant cases. This does not apply to criminal cases where expunged convictions are not protected.
The Expungement Process in California
Before reviewing the expungement process, it is important to understand who is eligible. Under the California Penal Code 1203.4, your conviction is eligible if:
- You have not committed a felony or misdemeanor
- You have not served time in a California state prison
- You have fulfilled the terms of your probation
- You were not convicted of a serious sex offense committed against children
Note: The best way to confirm that your conviction is eligible is to work with a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
Once you have confirmed that your conviction is eligible for expungement, you will need to prepare your case. First, you must compile all relevant information related to your conviction. This includes why it happened, who convicted you, where the arrest occurred and any other documents you had to fill out or provide. It is important to obtain multiple copies of your criminal record at this stage.
Next, find legal counsel. A law firm will confirm that you have all the proper documents and inform you of the legal steps required to move forward with your expungement.
After meeting with legal counsel, you will file your paperwork with the court. There are fees associated with your attorney and filing for the expungement itself. While expungement filing fees vary depending on the county you reside in, the average fees range from $100 to $300. You can ask for the attorney fees upfront and if you are worried about payment, most firms have payment plans available.
Once your paperwork is filed, you will wait for your court hearing. Your attorney will inform you if you need to be present for the court hearing. If your presence is required, you will spend time preparing for your case with your attorney.
On the day of your hearing, your attorney will inform you of the proceedings. It is likely that they will do most of the talking in court. By the end of the hearing, your petition for expungement will either be accepted or denied by the judge.
If your case is successfully expunged, it may take 90-120 days to be reflected as such. A few reasons this process may take longer than 120 days include: older cases, the date you filed your case, court computer system entries and factors relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are looking for a skilled Orange County criminal defense lawyer to assist in expunging your conviction, schedule a consultation with Grant Bettencourt today.