A criminal conviction can haunt you for life in the form of a negative criminal record. Every time you apply to a college scholarship program, an apartment complex or a new job, someone will perform a background check and discover that mistake you made so many years ago.
At some point, your criminal record can feel like a weight dragging you down and permanently limiting your options. Although criminal records help protect the public from those who pose a risk of harm to others, they can also create an unfair burden on those who have long since put their criminal mistakes in the past.
Expungements exist for exactly this reason. By allowing people to seal certain criminal records, an expungement can offer those who have learned from their mistakes fresh starts. How does the expungement process work in California?
Expungement in California involves changing the plea
Getting an expungement requires that you qualify and that you submit paperwork to the California criminal courts. You have to meet certain criteria to ask for an expungement, which is actually a retroactive dismissal of the previous charges.
Typically, you will need to have completed all of the sentencing obligations related to the offense including probation. You cannot have any pending criminal charges, and the offense itself must qualify.
The sentence you served generally should not include incarceration at state facilities, although serving a sentence in county jail does not make someone ineligible.
If you meet the criteria, expungement is not automatic. You have to petition the courts for the expungement. Rather than just sealing the records, if the courts decide to approve your expungement, they will open your criminal case and change the plea that you entered initially. Then, they will dismiss the case, effectively removing it from the public record.
This unique process gives even those with certain felony records an opportunity to move on with their lives when they have left their criminal issues in the past. Petitioning for an expungement could improve your life drastically, which makes it as important as mounting a solid criminal defense if your goal is to limit the impact of a criminal offense on your future.