If you are being held back by past criminal conviction, Attorney Ambrosio E. Rodriguez can help. California laws are quite liberal regarding expungements, so there are many opportunities to even remove serious felony convictions from one’s record. Our professional team has handled a number of these cases in the past, and we are here to fight for your future. Speak to a Los Angeles expungement attorney at The Rodriguez Law Group today for assistance.
What Does Expungement Do?
Expungement basically removes most of the disabilities that come with a criminal conviction. Employers cannot discriminate based on arrests that did not result in convictions and cannot even ask questions about the matter.
However, expungement does not normally remove collateral consequences, because expungement does not restore lost gun ownership rights or terminate a sex offender registration obligation. Furthermore, prosecutors can still use expunged convictions in some subsequent proceedings; for example, an expunged DUI still counts as a prior conviction for sentencing purposes.
Who is Eligible?
There is typically no waiting period, so as soon as you are discharged from probation, you can file an expungement petition. This relief is only available in non-incarceration cases (pretrial detention normally does not count). If a petitioner did not successfully complete probation, the judge may still allow expunction, if the violation was basically a one-off technicality and there are other extenuating circumstances. Some child sex crimes convictions cannot be expunged.
If the judge grants the petition, the judge will void the prior conviction and/or the defendant will withdraw the prior guilty plea, the defendant then pleads “not guilty,” and the judge dismisses the case
How Does It Work?
Typically, the easiest way to get a record expunged, or to get any request granted for that matter, is to obtain the other party’s agreement. Although the statute sets out the parameters for relief, the exact procedure varies by county. Some local prosecutors have written or unwritten policies; for example, they might always agree to expungement petitions after a certain amount of time has passed or always oppose them in certain cases, such as DUI or violent crimes.
If the prosecutor doesn’t agree, the matter goes to the judge. There, the applicant (person filing the petition) has the burden of proof to show expungement is “in the interests of justice.” That is a very broad standard, so applicants must be ready to present a wide range of evidence, including:
- Employment Data: Check stubs, W-2s, and tax returns all indicate that the applicant is a productive member of society who is contributing to the support of the family unit. Similarly, many judges like to hear testimony from a boss or supervisor that the applicant would be eligible for promotion if not for the criminal record.
- Witnesses: Before-and-after witnesses are very useful in expungement proceedings, e.g. Tom used to have a problem with alcohol but he’s been sober for the last seven months.
- Personal Testimony: The applicant technically does not need to testify, but it is advisable in most cases, because the judge needs to hear that the applicant is remorseful for the crime and has repented from prior bad behavior.
Many applicants testify that their friends or associates convinced or pressured them to commit the crime, but there is a fine line between pointing out that circumstances have changed (I don’t associate with those people anymore) and blaming others for one’s own actions.
Are There Other Kinds of Relief?
Some defendants qualify for a seal-and-destroy procedure that eliminates both conviction and arrest records. There must be an affirmative finding of innocence, which means that:
- You were arrested but never charged,
- Your case was dismissed prior to trial in open court, or
- A judge or jury found you not guilty.
The seal-and-destroy process works a little differently in juvenile matters. Defendants are eligible if the prosecution ended at least five years ago, they have not been prosecuted for a crime of moral turpitude, and there is no pending civil proceeding stemming from the juvenile conviction.
As mentioned earlier, standard expungement does not restore all lost privileges, but a Certificate of Rehabilitation may accomplish this. Defendants are usually eligible either seven or ten years after their sentences are completed. If the judge grants the Certificate, the state cannot refuse to give you a license based on your criminal past. Furthermore, the Certificate is an automatic application for a Governor’s Pardon, and if that is granted, sex offenders need no longer register.
If expungement is not an option, motions to reduce are often attractive alternatives. Defendants are eligible if they were convicted of a “wobbler,” or an offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The conviction is still there, but at least it is not a felony conviction. Before granting or denying the petition, the court will consider several factors, such as:
- Nature of offense,
- Surrounding facts and circumstances,
- Criminal history, and
- Behavior during probation.
Many people combine motions to reduce with expungement petitions, because it is better to have an expunged misdemeanor than an expunged felony.
Some people also combine motions for early discharge with expungement petitions and/or motions for reduction. Penal Code 1203.3 allows judges to grant these petitions at any time, but most judges want to see at least twelve months of successful performance. The earlier probation ends, the earlier you can expunge your record; moreover, early termination means no more probation fees and no more court supervision. That means hundreds of extra dollars in your pocket and no possibility of probation revocation.
Most jurisdictions offer pretrial diversion or deferred entry of judgment. Typically, in pretrial diversion programs, the case is dismissed if the defendants pay restitution and successfully complete all other program requirements. Each prosecution office has different program and eligibility requirements, but they are normally available for non-violent and non-DUI ffirst-timeoffenses.
Deferred entry of judgement is risky. It is a lot like regular probation, except that the judge does not enter a finding of guilt when the defendants plead guilty or no contest. If the defendants complete probation, the case is dismissed; if the defendants do not successfully complete probation, the judge can sentence them to anything up to the maximum under the law. However, if the defendants are good candidates for probation and subsequent expungement will not be available, deferred entry of judgement may be a good option.
Speak to a Los Angeles Expungement Attorney Today
To keep your criminal past from crippling your future, partner with Attorney Ambrosio E. Rodriguez. Contact our Los Angeles office today for a free consultation.