What Is The Process For Getting An Expungement?
The whole process from the time you decide to hire us to represent you, until your record is cleared usually takes between 4-6 weeks. The process goes something like this:
- We will meet with you, either in person or over the phone and get the information necessary to help you get your record cleared.
- We will get a copy of your court records for any convictions you have suffered and will check to make sure that these convictions are eligible to be expunged.
- We will write and file a formal motion to the court requesting expungement of your record. This will include a written declaration that we will prepare for you and have you sign.
- Once we obtain your approval we will file the motion with the Superior Court and serve a copy on the District Attorney's Office, as required by law.
At this point a date will be set for the motion to be heard in front of a Superior Court judge.
- We will respond on your behalf if the District Attorney's Office decides to file an objection to your expungement.
- We will appear in court and argue your case to the judge.
In the vast majority of expungement cases, you will not need to appear in court, and we will be able to make the appearance for you and argue to the judge on your behalf. If, however, you are still on probation and are requesting an early release, you will need to appear with us.
- We will obtained the signed order dismissing your case, pay the necessary court fees (we don't nickel and dime you for the $60) and mail you the order.
What Are The Limitations Of An Expungement?
If you are applying for a government job, or a job that requires a government-issued license or permit, your prior conviction will be discovered by a standard government background check. Government offices have access to nonpublic records that will show your prior conviction.
Expungement is a very powerful tool in fixing your record and getting your life back. There are, however, a few limitations on this power. The first limitation is on when you individually will be forced by law to admit to having a prior conviction. The second limitation involves those instances where employers will be able to find out about the conviction, even if you don't tell them, because they have access to nonpublic records. The final limitation is on some of the "collateral" consequences of convictions that never go away, even after an expungement.
When Would You Still Have To Disclose Prior Convictions?
Thankfully, it will only be rarely, if at all.
You must still disclose an expunged conviction is three rare circumstances:
- When contracting with the California State Lottery Commission (really, it's part of the law)
- When running for office
- When applying for a state license (such as to be a doctor, lawyer, or teacher etc)
Does This Mean That I Can't Be A Teacher/Lawyer/Doctor, Etc.?
Not necessarily. The fact that you have a prior conviction will be turned over to the licensing board for whatever license you are trying to obtain, and it will need to decide based on the totality of what it knows about you, whether this is a deal breaker for it. Often it will not be. You have to appreciate the position of the licensing board members in your own mind; what they want to know is that if they give you a license to do some job that relies on the public trust, that you will not hurt anyone. The fact that you have a criminal conviction is going to make them nervous. What they want to be able to say to themselves is that this doesn't reflect the kind of person you really are, and that any kind of problems that you had that lead you to this conviction are behind you. There is simply no better way to make that point than to show that the Superior Court of the state of California has already decided that it is true by granting your expungement.
Things An Expungement Will Not Do:
An expungement does not:
- Remove the conviction from your classified criminal history, accessible to government and law enforcement.
- Reinstate your right to possess firearms (NOTE: You may be able to restore your firearms rights by petitioning to have your felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Please see the section below on Expungements and Firearms Law.)
- Allow you to omit the conviction when applying for government licenses or permits.
- Prevent the conviction from being used as a sentencing enhancement in future convictions. (This includes strike priors. A conviction will not erase a strike for purposes of sentencing on a subsequent felony conviction)
- Prevent the conviction from being used to impeach your testimony if you are ever charged with a crime (though if you are called a witness against someone else, the conviction will probably not be available for use to impeach your testimony).
- Remove your duty to report as any kind of registered offender, including a registered sex offender. (NOTE: We may be able to help you get relief from the duty (and embarrassment) of being a registered offender by eventually filing for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. The very first step in the process of obtaining such a certificate is getting the criminal conviction expunged.)
- Prevent the conviction from being used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services for removal or exclusion purposes. (NOTE: This law has recently changed twice, and may well again. Originally the rule was that an expungement had no bearing on an immigration case. However, a few years ago a federal law was passed that allowed for first-time drug offenders who were charged federally to get their records cleared, and the courts decided that it was only fair to extend the same rule to state court defendants who had similar drug charges expunged. The courts then reversed themselves just this last year. This issue is likely to be brought to the United States Supreme Court and may spur federal legislation to correct this apparent unfairness. It must be said, then, that for the moment, a state expungement has no bearing on an immigration case, but this may not always be the case.)