Being charged with a crime in California is never a pleasant ordeal. In addition to the fines, jail time, and burdensome court obligations, you have to think about your reputation. Criminal charges have personal and professional consequences. Thanks to the laws of California, individuals with criminal records can “clean their slate” through the process of expungement. Read on to learn more about how to file a petition for expungement in California.
California Expungement Process
Contrary to popular belief, the process of expungement does not mean your record is “cleaned.” Instead, your guilty plea or conviction is withdrawn and replaced with a permanent non-guilty plea. Then, the case is dismissed. In other words, it is like a conviction never took place. While state courts grant many expungements each year, not all convictions qualify.
Generally speaking, you can qualify for expungement in California if you meet three criteria: 1) you are not currently serving probation; 2) you have not been charged with another crime; and 3) your crime was a misdemeanor or a felony that could have been charged as a misdemeanor. If you received a felony charge that resulted in a prison sentence, you do not qualify. Also, if your crime was a sexual offense against a minor or serious vehicle code violation that resulted in two or more points on your license, you might not qualify. If you do meet these three criteria, you have to also make sure all court-ordered fines have been paid.
Do-It-Yourself Expungement in California
First, you need to get a copy of your criminal record. You can get a copy of your criminal record from the superior court. Then, if you have completed your probation or were never given probation, you can apply for expungement. California requires probation to be complete before expungement is granted. However, courts often grant early termination of probation. If you are still serving probation, you can petition the court to end your probation early. If this happens, simply pay all of your fines, fees, and restitution. You can then apply for expungement of your conviction.
How to Expunge a Felony Conviction
In California, the only felonies that qualify for expungement are those that could have been charged as a misdemeanor, often called “wobbler” charges. A good way to know if your charge was a “wobbler” is to look at the sentencing. If it says the crime is “punishable by prison or by a term of not less than 365 days in jail,” then it is probably a “wobbler” and qualifies for expungement. To expunge these convictions, you have to first petition the court to reduce the charges. If you can prove to the judge that you have rehabilitated your life and take responsibility for your actions, the request will usually be granted.
For other felony convictions, the process will depend upon the type of sentencing. If you were sentenced to county/jail time and probation, all you have to do is file two petitions. The first petition, PC 17b will reduce the felony to a misdemeanor charge. The second, PC 1203.4, is a petition to have that misdemeanor charge dismissed. This process is fairly straightforward and usually takes 10 to 16 weeks depending on the court processing your documents. However, if your felony charge resulted in a state prison sentence, the process is different. You are only eligible for a dismissal if you have lived in the same county for five years. Also, you cannot file the normal petitions. Instead, you have to file a petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon. You must prove to the judge that you have rehabilitated your life and are making every effort to change. The ball is in the judge’s court to decide whether he will reduce your charges to allow for dismissal.
How to Expunge a California Misdemeanor
California Penal Code section 1203.4a states the requirements of expunging a California misdemeanor. As mentioned above, you need to first get a copy of your criminal record. Next, you need to complete and submit the form CR-180, the Petition for Dismissal. The petition for expungement must be submitted in the county of conviction.
Filing a petition for expungement in California usually costs between $100 – $400. The applicable fee will depend on the courthouse in which the petition is submitted. Hiring an attorney to expunge a criminal record can range anywhere between $400 – $1,400 for a single criminal charge plus the court costs. For complex matters, it can range anywhere between $1,000 to $4,000. Using the services of A People’s Choice is a lower cost alternative than hiring an attorney to expunge a criminal record.
At A People’s Choice, we can help you draft all the necessary legal documents to file a petition for expungement in California. Contact us for more information.