How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?
Last Updated on December 18, 2020
A misdemeanor might be considered a minor criminal offense compared to a felony charge, but it is a criminal offense. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the misdemeanor remains on your criminal record for the rest of your life, unless the court expunges the offense.
According to the California Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Justice must record offenses reported to the DOJ by any court or law enforcement agency in California. The record retention policy is to maintain criminal history information until the person reaches 100 years of age.
Therefore, a mistake you made early in your life could follow you forever. A criminal record could prevent you from obtaining the job you desire 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?
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 who is currently charged with a criminal offense is not eligible for a Judicial Dismissal of a past offense. Individuals who are currently on probation or serving a sentence for any criminal offense are not eligible for a Judicial Dismissal. Sex crimes involving children are not eligible for expungement.
How Do You Obtain a Judicial Dismissal?
You must petition the court to clean your criminal record of a misdemeanor offense. You can hire an attorney to file the application 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, misdemeanors that are expunged should not show up on criminal background checks because they were dismissed. Having 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 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.