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What Types of Criminal Charges Can Be Expunged in California?

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People seek expungement of past criminal convictions for a variety of reasons in California. They might not have contested a charge in their earlier years, but did not realize how much that criminal conviction would affect their career and/or reputation in later years. Or maybe they did contest the charge and were nevertheless found to be guilty, and now they want to take advantage of California’s relatively progressive expungement laws to prevent any unnecessary obstacles in their careers (e.g. denial of licenses, failing background checks, etc.). It is important to understand that expungement does not mean that you are asking a judge to reach a determination that you were actually not guilty of a crime (which is a highly challenging endeavor), but is instead just asking the judge to seal your criminal record in accordance with California state law, which is far easier. And yet the effect is the same; by having your records expunged, it will be as though you never were convicted of the crime in the first place (although additional steps may be necessary to remove third-party records). Which brings us to the question: what types of criminal charges can be expunged in California?

The Convictions That Cannot Be Expunged in California…

It may be a little easier to explain the convictions that cannot be expunged first. If you served time in a state prison (as opposed to a county prison) for your crime, then your conviction cannot be expunged. Also, if you are currently under probation, then you will need to fulfill all the terms of your probation prior to having your conviction expunged. Finally, some specific crimes cannot be expunged regardless of whether a person fulfilled his or her probation terms, including:

  • Child pornography crimes
  • Certain sexual assault crimes
  • Committing lewd acts with a minor
  • Failure to submit to a police inspection of vehicle

…And the Convictions That Can Be Expunged

For most other crimes, you are eligible to request that the court expunge your record. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, and you have completed your sentence (if any) and fulfilled the terms of your probation, then you or your own attorney can request that the judge simply expunge your past misdemeanor conviction.

Other felonies are eligible for expungement as well thanks to recently passed legislation in California, although this is a two-step process. You will first have to file a petition asking the judge to reduce your past felony down to a misdemeanor. If this is granted, you can than petition the judge to have the misdemeanor expunged.

Note, however, that expungement will not affect penalties that may have been assessed to your driving privileges in California.

Work with an Experienced Attorney in Your California Expungement

Orange County criminal defense attorney Bart Kaspero works with individuals across Southern California to help expunge and clear their criminal records to give them a second chance in their careers and personal lives. Contact his office today to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.

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