People seek expungement of past criminal convictions for a variety of reasons in California. But what types of criminal charges can be expunged in California?

2024 Update: California has recently adopted legislation that limits some offenses (specifically violent and serious felonies under §1192 and §667) from expungement eligibility.  More on this below.

For Felony Expungements, click here.

what types of criminal charges can be expunged in california

The motivations to expunge are numerous:

(1) Someone 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.

(2) 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.  For those who are still on parole or who are required to register as sex offenders, expungement is not an option.

Another category people are surprised to hear are past prison terms.  If you served time in a state prison (as opposed to a county prison) for your crime, then your conviction may be expunged.  Recent laws have allowed those with prison priors eligible to petition the court to set aside the conviction and clear your criminal history.

But judges ha1ve been reluctant to grant these petitions unless you can show rehabilitation

Where you fall into this block is case specific so it’s highly advised you consult with a lawyer.

Finally, if you are currently under probation (either formal or informal), then you will need to fulfill all the terms of your probation prior to having your conviction expunged.  If that’s you, then you may need to terminate your probation early if you have a strong reason to do so.

What types of Criminal Charges Can be Expunged in California?

In short, almost ALL of them!  Absent special enumerated statutes that prevent you from filing for a set aside petition, even felonies and strikes are eligible.

2024 Update: For those with convictions after January 1, 2005, some limitations have been placed on expungements that would have been fast-tracked.  This relates to felonies designated as “serious” under subsection (c) of §1192.7, felonies considered “violent” under §667.5, and felony offenses requiring §290 registration.

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 Expungedwhat types of criminal charges can be expunged in california

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. Originally, you needed first have to file a petition asking the judge to reduce your past felony down to a misdemeanor. If granted, you would then petition the judge to have the misdemeanor expunged.

Now, you can (1) expunge a felony record, (2) misdemeanor record, (3) Seal an arrest or dismissed case, and even (4) use technology to remove yourself from criminal record databases.

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 the entire State of 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.

  1. Rehabilitation can mean a lot of things to different courts. The process of post-conviction relieve is not a science but a practice in advocacy. For many who have had trouble getting their lives together after probation or parole, it’s more helpful to convey the difficulties that criminal charges have placed on moving forward. On the other hand, for those who have been able to secure employment or have completely transformed their lives, the arguments to grant an expungement petition will differ because the reviewing court will be evaluating the client with a different lens. ↩︎
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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.