Criminal offenses are divided into misdemeanors and felonies, with felonies being the more serious of the two. If you are facing only misdemeanor charges, don’t let the fact that they are minor offenses fool you.
The truth of the matter is that a criminal record has serious consequences that can negatively affect many aspects of a person’s life for years to come. How so? Criminal records are stigmatized in our society, and can affect one’s ability to:
- Get accepted into certain colleges
- Obtain college scholarships
- Play high school or college sports
- Get certain jobs
- Be accepted into the military
- Get promoted in the military
- Obtain a security clearance
- Get a job where sensitive information is handled
- Work with children
- Obtain a professional license
- Travel to other countries, such as Canada
- Rent an apartment or home
- Obtain sole custody of one’s children
- Work in a government job
- Work with the elderly
- Own a firearm or vote
Given the fact that a criminal record can be virtually crippling to criminal defendants, many convicted criminals in California will apply for what is called an expungement. What is an expungement and what can it do for people?
What an Expungement Can Do
For starters, we want to explain that if a person’s petition is granted under Penal Code 1203.4, it does not mean that their case is being sealed. People mistakenly believe that an expungement means their record is completely erased, but that is not the case. Perhaps a more suitable term is a “dismissal.”
Under Penal Code 1203.4, the criminal record is not fully erased as the term implies. Instead, the conviction remains on the person’s record for many purposes, for example, for immigration consequences and sex offender registration.
An expungement will however, show that the case was dismissed. This means that on many, but not all job applications, you can say that you have not been convicted. However, if you’re applying for a government job or a job that requires a security clearance, you must be honest about the conviction and the fact that it was later expunged.
If you were granted probation, you completed your probation, and you are not on probation anymore, you should be eligible for relief under Sec. 1203.4. In order to receive an expungement, you cannot be on probation at this point in time or serving a sentence for another criminal case, according to California law.
What if my case was reduced to an infraction? In that case, you would be considered eligible for an expungement now – you don’t have to wait to apply for relief under Sec. 1203.4.
Please note that an expungement cannot:
- Restore your civil right to own or possess a firearm
- Make it so you do not have to register as a sex offender
- Erase the criminal conviction from your “rap sheet”
- Permit you to withhold the conviction from any applications for a government-issued license
- Prevent the state from using the conviction as a prior “strike” for future crimes
- Prevent the conviction from being used against you for immigration removal proceedings
While an expungement cannot hide your conviction from government bodies, it can improve your quality of life in many ways. In the legal system, an expungement shows the courts, future employers, and the public that you are making a good faith effort to take full responsibility for your actions and move on with your life.