California law allows some criminal convictions to be “expunged” or essentially removed from your record. Getting your conviction expunged can help you apply for jobs, earn certain types of licenses, and rebuild a life that does not carry the stigma of your past conviction.
However, not all crimes can be expunged. Additionally, judges will often wrongly deny a request to expunge, even if it is legitimate. Fortunately, we can tell you up-front whether your criminal record is eligible for expungement in Los Angeles, prepare all documents, argue your case, and challenge a wrongful denial of expungement rulings.
What Is a Criminal Record?
A criminal record is an official document that concisely outlines any history of illegal activity for an individual. The information contained in your criminal record (if you have one) includes:
- Your full name as well as prior names and any known aliases
- Your date of birth, race, and ethnicity
- Your fingerprints
- Your photograph, along with notes about any distinguishes physical traits
- You arrest record
- Any current or former indictments
- Any outstanding warrants
- Any convictions
A criminal record gets created from the moment you are first arrested for a crime. This record is accessible to anyone who provides a valid ID, along with a legitimate reason for making the request. When applying for a job, an employer will likely check your criminal record, if you have one, before hiring you.
Your criminal record will stay with you for life. Unless you are able to get your record expunged, it could potentially forever pose challenges to your future.
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What Is Expungement?
An expungement (sometimes called an “expunction”) is a formal court order that dismisses your conviction. It can only be done after the sentence is served, so it does not help avoid penalties for the offense. However, by dismissing the conviction after the fact, the expungement effectively deletes it from your public record.
Under California Penal Code (CPC) § 1203.4, as long as you have served the probation associated with your crime, you can request for your records to be expunged. A successful expungement allows you to avoid disclosing your conviction in many situations and restores some rights you wouldn’t have otherwise.
How Do I Know if I’m Eligible for Expungement in Los Angeles?
The eligibility rules are fairly simple. You are eligible to file for an expungement in Los Angeles if you:
- Didn’t serve any state prison time for your offense
- Have completed all penalties and conditions of your sentence (including probation—although we can request to end probation early as part of the process)
- Are not currently charged or serving a sentence for any other criminal offenses
- Didn’t commit any probation violations (although, you may still qualify even if you did)
If you aren’t eligible because you served state prison time or because your offense was a sex crime, you may still qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation.
Having a probation violation doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get an expungement. It just means we will have to take the extra step of justifying why an expungement would benefit your family and yourself. The court will consider this and several other factors in deciding whether to grant the expungement anyway.
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Can I Get an Expungement Even if My Conviction Was a Felony?
Yes, depending on what the felony was. In general, the rule is that a crime can potentially be expunged as long as you didn’t serve time in state prison (county jail is okay). In the past, this prevented felons from getting an expungement because most felonies carried prison sentences.
Today, however, a felony is still eligible for expungement if it is considered a “wobbler” (a crime that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor).
Additionally, you may be able to get your record expunged in Los Angeles if you were convicted of a nonviolent felony that was adjusted under California’s “realignment” policy. This policy can make it so that you serve your time in county jail instead of state prison.
That does not mean that judges always understand or follow these rules. It is possible to have your expungement wrongly denied, even if the above apply to you. If this has happened, you need to talk to a lawyer.
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What Effects Does an Expungement Have?
An expungement comes with several benefits and a few limits. With the expungement of a conviction:
- You do not have to disclose your conviction when applying for most jobs
- Employers cannot use it as a factor in deciding not to hire you
- You are allowed to apply for public-sector jobs without disclosing your conviction or expungement
- You are allowed to apply for public licenses
- You can state under oath that you were not convicted of that crime
Even an expungement doesn’t eliminate all the effects of a past conviction, however. Some of the possible consequences that will remain are that:
- You still have to disclose your past conviction if running for public office
- You still have to disclose your past conviction if applying for a job or contract with the State Lottery Commission
- You still have to disclose your past conviction if applying for a professional license
- If you are a convicted felon, the expungement does not restore your right to own or carry firearms
- If you commit another crime, the court can still consider your expunged offense as a “prior” in order to enhance your new sentence
Having a charge on your record can make it hard to get a job, a loan, or any number of other things that most people take for granted. With the help of an expungement lawyer in Los Angeles, you could be able to move on with your life.
Do Expunged Records Show Up on Background Checks?
In most cases, an expunged record will not show up on any background check that someone might run on you. It’s considered unethical for background check companies to bring up any records that have been erased or sealed. Because of this, they most likely will not report those to an employer or company that has hired them.
Some background checks will still turn up a conviction even if it was expunged. However, in most cases, it is illegal for an employer to use this information in a hiring decision. That means the largest benefit by far is having an easier time finding employment.
Can I Expunge My Record Myself in Los Angeles?
You can technically attempt to get your record expunged on your own in Los Angeles, but it’s not encouraged.
Los Angeles county court is known to deny expungement requests if you haven’t built a strong enough case for yourself. The documents necessary for expungement and the process of convincing the judge that you deserve to have your record expunged can be very difficult to understand.
An attorney will know what to do, though. With someone by your side who understands the nuances of criminal defense, you stand a much better chance of having your criminal record expunged in Los Angeles. Schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers to better understand how our team can help.
What Steps Do I Have to Take to Get My Expungement?
First, you have to complete all conditions of your sentence. Once your sentence is complete, there are up to three big steps that you must take:
- If you are still on probation, file a motion asking for early termination of probation.
- If you were convicted of a felony that is a “wobbler,” request that it be reduced to a misdemeanor.
- File a form with the court known as a CR-180, or a “petition for dismissal.”
In some cases, you may have to go to a hearing to explain any past probation violations and justify your request. Otherwise, the court should order the expungement. An order will be sent out to databases of criminal records so that most background checks will no longer show the conviction at all.
The steps to criminal record expungement in Los Angeles can be deceptively challenging. Knowing exactly what you need for your documentation is difficult enough. Convincing a judge in a hearing that you don’t deserve a charge on your record is often tough, even for trained attorneys. You need a lawyer handling the process for you.
Getting Your Record Expunged When You Weren’t Convicted
Even if you were not convicted of a crime, merely being arrested and charged will appear on your criminal record. Getting an arrest expunged from your record is a different process than expunging a conviction.
There are two statutes that govern this type of expungement.
Under California Penal Code Section 851.8, you can get an arrest expunged from your record if you can prove to a judge that you were “factually innocent. If you can show that there were no valid grounds for your arrest, the judge is likely to grant your expungement. Proving that you were factually innocent can be difficult.
When you are the defendant in a trial, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. However, in this situation, the burden of proof lies with you. An acquittal or no formal charges being filed does not necessarily mean you were innocent. It may simply mean that there was not enough evidence to convict you.
In cases where you can not prove factual innocence, you may be able to have your record sealed rather than expunged. Under California Penal Code Section 851.91, you could potentially have your arrest record sealed under the basis of “legal innocence.” You may be eligible to petition to have your record sealed if you:
- Were arrested but not charged
- Were charged, but the charges were later dismissed
- Were acquitted
- Were convicted, but had the conviction overturned on appeal
How Much Does It Cost to Expunge a Record in Los Angeles?
When you submit your request to expunge your criminal record in Los Angeles, the court will require a fee. Record expungement fees vary between counties. The cost of expunging a felony is often more expensive than expunging a misdemeanor. Consult with your local courthouse or your attorney to find out what your fees will be.
Lawyers will require a fee for providing help expunging your records, but these amounts are almost always worth the cost.
In most cases, you will not be able to get your criminal record expunged if you attempt to do so on your own. As a result, you will continue to face the challenges that come with having a conviction on your record, such as struggling to find a well-paying job.
By hiring a lawyer, you will greatly increase your chances of getting your record expunged. Doing so will mean that you will have options for better jobs, loans, and other opportunities.
When you get your initial consultation with one of our record expungement attorneys, they will tell you how much you can expect to pay for their services.
Is There Any Downside to an Expungement?
No. There are limits to what an expungement can do for you, as explained above. However, if you are eligible to apply, doing so can only help and never hurt. There is no risk or penalty for requesting an expungement and being denied. The worst the court can do is say no to your request.
In most cases, if you are eligible, a lawyer can get you approved the first time or fix an expungement request that was already denied.
Talk to a Los Angeles Expungement Lawyer for Free
Don’t let a past mistake continue to haunt your life or your career. The criminal defense lawyers at Simmrin Law Group want to help you move on without your conviction hanging over your head. We’ll help you get your criminal record expunged in Los Angeles.
Give us a call or fill out our easy online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our legal team. One of our record expungement attorneys will review your case and advise you of your options for getting a charge removed from your record.