A criminal record can limit you in many areas of your life, from your educational and employment opportunities to where you can live. These days, it seems like almost everyone does a criminal background check before they agree to do business with you.
If you have an old criminal conviction on your record, you may struggle to move forward with your career or your life after you have paid your debt to society. Thankfully, California does allow those convicted of criminal offenses to request an expungement through the courts.
You can petition the courts to seal the record of a prior criminal offense, thereby preventing other people from accessing those records. An expungement effectively removes the blemish, allowing you to pass background checks in the future.
When might you qualify for an expungement under California law?
You must have already completed your sentence and court-ordered obligations
After a felony or misdemeanor conviction, the courts may order probation, incarceration, community service or even restitution. You will need to have fulfilled all of those obligations prior to requesting an expungement.
Provided that you either did not have to serve time in state prison or did serve time in state prison but could have instead gone to County Jail under Proposition 47, you may qualify for an expungement. You will need to present a request to the courts for review, along with any necessary records regarding your case. Technically, what happens is that you withdraw your plea or the courts withdraw the official finding of guilt. The courts then dismiss the case and officially set aside the conviction.
What prevents you from securing an expungement?
There are certain scenarios where you cannot successfully request an expungement even if you meet the basic criteria for one. If you currently have a pending criminal charge, the court will not grant an expungement. The same is true for those currently serving a sentence or on probation for a recent conviction, even if it is not the offense that they want to expunge.
Securing an expungement can open up many opportunities for you, so it may be worthwhile to explore whether you can seal the records of that previous conviction.