1. An Explanation of California Expungement Law
California Penal Code 1203.4 PC provides that once an individual’s criminal record is expunged, the person is released from “all penalties and disabilities” arising out of the conviction.2
This is especially important because in today’s economy — where finding a job is tougher than ever — you want to do everything in your power to make yourself the most desirable candidate. Clearly, this includes being able to state that you have a clean criminal record.
Expungements are also beneficial for securing or maintaining California professional licenses and for joining many professional organizations. This relief offers you a “fresh start” from an otherwise questionable past.
1.1. Who is eligible to get a California expungement?
As a basic rule, you’re entitled to expunge your criminal records in California if you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense, and you
- successfully completed probation, and
- are not currently charged with a criminal offense, on probation for a criminal offense or serving a sentence for a criminal offense.4
You must have successfully completed your probation in its entirety (or obtained an early termination of probation, discussed below). If you got sent to California state prison — either at the time of judgment, or because of a probation violation — you do not qualify for an expungement.5
“Successfully completing your probation” means that you
- completed all the terms of your probation (that is, paid all fines and restitution, completed any counseling programs, community service, etc.),
- attended all required court appearances (either personally or through your attorney), and
- did not commit any new crimes while on probation.
1.2. Who is NOT eligible to get a California expungement?
As we stated, you cannot expunge a conviction if you were sent to state prison.
Beyond that, there are also certain criminal offenses in California that cannot be expunged. These include serious sex offenses committed against children, such as
- Penal Code 286(c) PC California’s law against sodomy with a child,
- Penal Code 288 PC California’s lewd acts with a child law,
- Penal Code 288a (c) PC California’s law against oral copulation with a child, and
- Penal Code 261.5(d) PC California’s statutory rape law which prohibits sexual intercourse between persons who are 21 years and older with persons younger than 16.6
1.3. What if I violated (or didn’t satisfy) my probation?
If you completed your probation without a violation, you are entitled to expunge your California criminal record.
But if you failed successfully to complete your probation — and you received a probation violation — all hope is not lost. The court will hold a special hearing to determine whether you are nonetheless a good candidate for expungement.7
In the wake of a probation violation, the court has wide discretion as to whether to grant or deny the petition for expungement. Factors that the judge may consider include (but are not limited to):
- your overall performance while on probation,
- the seriousness of the underlying conviction,
- your criminal history, and
- any additional evidence you can provide to demonstrate why you are deserving of this relief, such as
- your opportunity to obtain a good job,
- the fact that you support your family,
- the fact that you have strong community ties, etc.