California offers one of the most gracious expungement programs in the country, and it is a principle of California state law to provide a second chance to people who have made mistakes in the past. But that does not mean that the process is necessarily simple, that any and all criminal records will be erased, or that you will be in the exact same position as you were before. While the benefits of expungement are enormous – namely the reputational and career benefits you will experience – it’s good to go into the process clear-eyed and with the right resources to get the job done.

Expungement Can Be a Multi-step Process

Expungement is not simply a matter of filling out and filing a form, and, depending on the type of conviction, may require multiple steps. Misdemeanor crimes can be expunged in California, but, if you were convicted of a felony, then you can take steps to have a court reduce your felony to a misdemeanor charge, and then have the misdemeanor expunged. You must also finish and fulfill all requirements of probation prior to having your conviction expunged, and this also may require additional steps, especially if there are unresolved issues with your probation.

Many But Not All Crimes Can Be Expunged

Again, many felonies can be reduced to a misdemeanor and later expunged, but certain crimes are not eligible for expungement. If you spent time in a state prison as opposed to a county prison for your crimes, then you may not be eligible for expungement. Also, the California legislature has limited the ability of defendants to obtain expungement for certain crimes (regardless of where time was served) including a number of serious sex offenses where the victim was a minor. But for misdemeanors and the vast majority of felonies where there was no state prison sentences involved, expungement is available.

Expungement is Not Always the Same as Clearing Your Criminal Record

When you successfully expunge your record, the courts will actually change your public record to show a not guilty finding for the crime that you were charged with, but private companies that maintain databases of criminal records for the purposes of background checks may not necessarily reflect this change and thus may provide employers and background investigators with information about your now expunged conviction. Services are available, however, for an individual who has had their record expunged to take action to clear these third-party criminal records as well.

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About the Author: Bart Kaspero

Bart Kaspero is an experienced criminal defense and regulatory attorney who has focused on using technology and the law in bringing privacy to criminal records. His research has been published in several legal journals and his unique background has helped a broad spectrum of clients. He has provided legal training to lawyers across the US on how to navigate complex criminal record legislation and how to effectively provide privacy to those with past arrests, charges, and convictions. His innovative methods have earned him a top position of authority on the subject of criminal record privacy as well as trust within the criminal data supply chain.