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How Do I Clean Up My Criminal Record in California?

Anyone who has been convicted of a crime realizes that the punishment for the mistake that brought you into the criminal justice system continues to punish you long after you have served your sentence, completed your probation, served your custody, paid your fines and done your programs. It continues when you can't get the job you want or the vocational or professional license you have dreamed about or get denied for consideration for many other opportunities because of this conviction.

Do not despair, you can still achieve your dreams, get that job you always wanted, get the vocational license or credential you have worked so hard for and make your future bright again. You need to know what is available to help you clean up your record and remove this obstacle to your personal growth, professional achievement, and happiness.

The Value of Expungement

The difficulties of having a "criminal" record in America are well known. Employers see your record and throw your application in the wastepaper basket or hit the delete key on their computers.

An expungement allows you to withdraw your guilty plea or set aside your conviction for infractions, eligible misdemeanors and felonies and dismiss the charges for most purposes. One of the greatest benefits, is that an expunged offense cannot be considered, looked for or even asked about for employment purposes (with few exceptions). There are also other tools to assist you in cleaning up your record depending on your situation.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of expungement and the other avenues for cleaning up your criminal record.

Clean Up Your California Criminal Record

California offers a number of ways to clean up your criminal record if you have any criminal convictions. Which ones you choose depends on the type of charge, the facts of your case, and your sentence.

In general, the avenues include:

  1. Expungements - are available for nearly all infractions, misdemeanors and most felonies, provided you case was resolved without a prison commit. You could have been given probation which may have included local custody but not sentenced to prison. You cannot be on probation or have a case pending to apply. You cannot seal an adult record. An expungement results in a dismissal of your case for most purposes and your record will reflect a dismissal under the Expungement section California Penal Code 1203.4 et seq. In addition, California Labor Code 432.7 states no employer shall ask about a PC 1203.4 dismissed case, seek to find it, or use it as any condition of employment - including hiring, promotion or termination. It will also help you to get or reinstate any vocational licenses. The expungement still allows the conviction to be used as a prior for future convictions thereby increasing penalties and be used for purposes of impeachment as a witness. It will also not allow firearm possession if the conviction itself resulted in the loss of the firearm privilege. DMV also will still consider the conviction for license suspension/revocation actions.
  2. Reduction of felonies to misdemeanors - are available for many, but not all felonies. The possibility of a reduction to a misdemeanor offers a huge potential benefit in cleaning up your criminal record in California. You will no longer be a felon. As a felon, you lose your right to own and possess a firearm for life, among other rights; with a reduction, you are no longer an ex-felon and may be able to possess a firearm depending on the underlying offense. If the felony is reducible and you are eligible for an expungement, both can be done at the same time.
  3. Dismissals and reductions under Prop 64 and Prop 47 - Both Prop 64 and Prop 47 are examples of relatively new California laws that allow people to clean up their criminal records. Under Proposition 47, some theft and drug possession crimes can be reduced to misdemeanors, some of which were non-reducible in the past. Proposition 64, which opened the door to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in California, allows you to clean up many types of prior marijuana-related charges, either by dismissal or reduction.

Finally, the Certificate of Rehabilitation is primarily for those who did go to state prison. It can enhance an ex felon's chance to become licensed by state boards, serve as an official document to show an ex-felon's rehabilitation and enhance employability and, if granted, then becomes an automatic request for pardon even though Governor's pardons are rarely granted. Certificates of Rehabilitation can also eliminate sex registration for some limited offenses.

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