How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Mar 25, 2024 | Expungement
3 of the Most Frequently Violated Rights of the Accused

Does a misdemeanor stay on record long?

A misdemeanor crime is considered a minor criminal offense, especially compared to a felony charge, but it is still a criminal offense.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the offense can stay on your record for the rest of your life unless the court expunges it. Criminal charges like this can change your life. You need a criminal defense lawyer.

According to the California Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Justice must record offenses reported to the DOJ by any California court or law enforcement agency. The record retention policy is to maintain criminal history information until the person reaches 100 years of age.

Any mistake you make could follow you forever. A criminal record, such as domestic violence charges, could prevent you from obtaining the desired job or continuing your education. Depending on the charges, a misdemeanor conviction could negatively impact custody proceedings.

However, you might be able to get rid of your criminal record before 100 years. The expungement process can help you clean your record so that you can move forward with the plans for your life without the burden of a criminal record.

What is Expungement in California?

Expungement involves removing or sealing a criminal conviction. However, California does not have an actual “expungement” process. You can apply for a Judicial Dismissal under Penal Code §1203.4.

All misdemeanors are eligible for Judicial Dismissal under Penal Code §1203.4. Defendants are eligible for a Judicial Dismissal if they completed their probation successfully and did not serve time in state prison for the offense. There is an exception for defendants who would have served time in county jail after the Realignment provisions of Proposition 47 were implemented.

A person currently charged with a criminal offense is not eligible for a Judicial Dismissal of a past offense. Individuals currently on probation or serving a sentence for any criminal offense are not eligible for a Judicial Dismissal. Sex crimes involving children do not qualify for expungement.

Why Get Misdemeanors Expunged From Your Record?

There are several reasons why someone might want to have their misdemeanor charges expunged:

Employment opportunities

A criminal record, even for misdemeanors, can make it difficult to secure employment. Many employers conduct background checks, and a misdemeanor conviction may disqualify a candidate or put them at a disadvantage compared to other applicants.


Landlords often run background checks on potential tenants. A misdemeanor conviction could lead to a rental application being denied.


Some colleges and universities ask about criminal history when applying. Having a misdemeanor expunged can prevent it from affecting educational opportunities.

Professional licenses

Certain professions, such as healthcare, law, or education, may require a professional license. A misdemeanor conviction could hinder the ability to obtain or maintain such licenses.

Stigma and personal life

A criminal record can carry a social stigma and affect personal relationships. Expungement allows a person to move forward without the burden of a past mistake.

Civic duties

In some cases, a misdemeanor conviction can affect a person’s ability to serve on a jury, vote, or hold public office. Expungement can restore these rights.


Some countries may deny entry to individuals with criminal records, including misdemeanors. Expungement can make international travel easier.

Expungement allows a person to have their misdemeanor conviction sealed or removed from public record, enabling them to move forward without the challenges and limitations that a criminal record can impose.

How Do You Obtain a Judicial Dismissal in California?

You must petition the court to clean your criminal record of a misdemeanor offense. You can hire an attorney to apply with the court. Hiring an attorney ensures that all the forms are completed and filed correctly.

The court reviews the application. If it approves the application for Judicial Dismissal, the court dismisses the charges.

Your criminal record will not be wiped “clean” of the charge. However, your record will read that the charges were dismissed pursuant to Penal Code §1203.4. This notation allows you to truthfully check the box on a job application that states you have not been convicted of a crime.

Additionally, expunged misdemeanors should not appear on criminal background checks because they were dismissed. A clean criminal background check can be extremely beneficial when searching for a job, applying for college scholarships, and applying for housing.

Multiple Misdemeanor Convictions Can Be Expunged

Even though you have multiple misdemeanor convictions on your criminal record, you can apply to expunge each of the convictions. You must apply separately to have each misdemeanor charge expunged, but it is possible to clear your criminal record of all misdemeanor charges.

Can I Avoid a Misdemeanor Conviction?

Because a misdemeanor conviction can be costly in terms of your future plans and potential criminal penalties for a conviction, you should try to avoid a conviction if possible. Your best chance of avoiding a guilty verdict is to hire a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer.

Your first step is to avoid giving the police officers and the prosecutor any additional evidence to use against you in court. You have the right to remain silent. You need to exercise that right.

Do not answer questions or give a statement without a lawyer present. Talking to the police is not helpful. In most cases, defendants make matters worse by talking to the police.

If you are released from jail on bond, make sure that you understand the terms of your release. Violating any of the terms of your release will result in going back to jail. Stay out of trouble and follow your criminal lawyer’s instructions.

Your lawyer works to have the charges dismissed. However, if the evidence against you is strong, you may want to consider accepting a plea deal. When you complete your sentence, you can work with your attorney to have the misdemeanor charge expunged from your criminal record.

How a Lawyer Can Help With Misdemeanor Charges

Facing misdemeanor charges is a daunting and stressful experience. Hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

An attorney experienced in criminal convictions can provide you with the guidance, support, and representation you need to protect your rights and minimize the impact of the charges on your life.

Your lawyer will begin by carefully reviewing the details of your case and the evidence against you. They will use their knowledge of the law and the local court system to develop a strong defense strategy tailored to your unique circumstances.

This may involve challenging the prosecution’s evidence, negotiating with the district attorney for reduced charges or a plea bargain, or presenting mitigating factors to the court.

Child sex crime convictions and other violent criminal felony offenses are not able to be expunged in California.

An attorney will advocate for you throughout the process, ensuring your voice is heard, the criminal justice system functions properly, and your interests are protected.

They handle all communication with the court and the prosecution, informing you of any developments in your case and advising you on the best course of action.

A lawyer represents you in court and assists with expunging a misdemeanor conviction from your record. This can help you move forward with your life and avoid the negative consequences of a criminal record, such as difficulty finding employment or housing.

Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney can level the playing field and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.


To learn more, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm at 213-995-6767 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.