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Too often I hear “I can’t get a job because I have a conviction on my record.”

My reply is usually: “Have you thought about trying to get your record expunged?”

The most common answer to that question, is that of the questions:

  1. “What is an Expungement?”,
  2. “Can I get my record Expunged?”, and
  3.  “Are expungements really beneficial? If so, what are the benefits?

While this topic is one that will be featured at my upcoming seminar series beginning 2012, I thought I’d give you all some basic information and answers to these common questions:

  1. What is an Expungement?”

While Criminal Records have always been public record, back in the day it was unlikely that your criminal history would be discovered by anyone other than law enforcement because those seeking this information had to sort through millions of court records in order to find it. Potential employers, licensing agencies,and professional organizations rarely went through this process because it was tedious. However, as technology continues to develop and advance, access to these criminal records is steadily increasing and the search has become quite simple. Thanks to technology, licensing agencies, professional organizations, and potential employers are now able to conduct a background check in a matter of minutes.

The word expunge is defined: “to delete or erase, blot out, obliterate, wipe out, or destroy.” An expungement is created to do just that to the consequences you normally will suffer by having a criminal record.

2. “Can I get my record expunged?”

If you meet certain criteria, just as easy as it is for employers to do background checks, it is relatively easy to get your record expunged in California.

In general, you may expunge your criminal record in California if you:

  • were convicted of a crime,
  • were not sent to California state prison, and
  • successfully completed probation (or obtained an early termination of probation) AND 
  • are not currently charged with a criminal offense,
  • are not currently on probation for a criminal offense
  • are not serving a sentence for a criminal offense.

*Note: If you did not successfully complete your probation (you “violated”), you may still be eligible for an expungement via a special hearing by the court to determine whether you are a good candidate for expungement. At this hearing, the Judge will consider many factors including, but not limited to: your community ties, potential to obtain employment, and seriousness of the crime.

You cannot get your record expunged if:

  • you were sent to California state prison to serve your sentence or as a result of violating probation.
  • you committed one of the offenses in California that may not be expunged (including, but not limited to serious sex offenses committed against children).

3. “Are Expungements really beneficial? If so, what are the benefits?”

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.

Considering today’s economy where finding a job is difficult enough if not impossible, expungements are definitely beneficial. An expungement provides you with a fresh start from past mistakes.

Once a conviction is expunged:

  • prospective employers are prohibited from asking you about it in an interview and from using it against you when making a decision to or not to hire you.
  • you may legally state that you have a “clean criminal record, no arrests, no convictions, etc.”
  • your expunged, prior convictions may not be used to impeach your credibility as a witness in court.
  • you may have a better chance of avoiding immigration consequences (such as being deported).

Expungements are also beneficial for securing or maintaining a Professional license in California and for joining professional organizations.

There are many different approaches your lawyer may take in order to “clear your record” so that you may have a better future.  This includes, petitioning the court to terminate your probation early, reduce your convicted charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, expunge your record, seal and destroy your record, and issue a Certificate of Rehabilitation. Some cases may even justify a petition for Pardon by the governor.

Every case is unique and will require its own approach. However, if you don’t take the first step of determining what can be done, your record will remain unchanged and you will receive no benefit.  To learn the whole “scoop” on expungements, be sure to follow this blog and/or join the monthly E-zine list to receive your invitation to the upcoming expungement seminar which will be held at the beginning of the new year. Or of course you may contact me for your FREE consultation.