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Having a criminal conviction on your record can prevent one from getting a desired job, promotion, professional license, even admission into school. Before the internet it was difficult for a prospective employer or other interested party to check to see whether an applicant was ever convicted of a crime. That's because the search would have required knowing in which court the record was stored, and then take the time to sort through paper files in order to find the conviction. But that all changed with the advent of online databases that collect and store in easily-searchable formats your entire life's history, including any criminal convictions. Now, it's a simple matter of going online, paying a fee to a commercial database company, and plugging some basic information.

Fortunately, in California it is possible to ask the court to expunge your record under Penal Code section 1203.4. If the court grants the motion, then, legally speaking, one could honestly say on a job application that he or she was never convicted of the crime. That's because under the 1203.4 expungement procedure, the court first allows the defendant to withdraw his original plea of guilty or no contest and to enter a not guilty plea in its place. Thus, legally speaking, at that point the conviction never happened and the defendant is now in the same position he or she was before the plea was entered. Then, the court dismisses the case "in the interests of justice" - before another guilty or no contest plea is entered. Legally, it's as if a person was charged with a crime but the case was dismissed before any conviction was entered.

If the case involves a felony that can legally be reduced to a misdemeanor, the court will first reduce all such felony charges to misdemeanors and then dismiss the case as misdemeanor charges.

Generally speaking, the court will not grant a motion to expunge criminal cases until the convicted person asking for the expungement (the "Petitioner"): (1) has successfully completed all terms of probation, and (2) is not currently on probation or serving a sentence for a criminal offense, (3) attended all court appearances.

1. Successfully completed all the terms of probation. This means that the Petitioner has completed all jail time, community service hours, paid all fines, completed all classes, and so forth before the expungement motion is filed. Even if the Petitioner had violated probation, the court could still grant the motion to expunge so long as he or she addresses all probation issues before the motion is granted. In addition, the court might even grant the motion to expunge even before the completion of the probation term. Generally speaking, the court would want the Petitioner to have completed the term of probation in the case to be expunged, but sometimes the court will agree to shorten the original term of probation and grant the motion to expunge the criminal convictions provided that the Petitioner has sufficient reason to make the request, such as a securing a good job or admission into college.

2. Is not currently on probation or parole. This means, generally speaking, that the Petitioner has to have stayed out of trouble for a significant period of time, by not picking up new charges.

3. Attended all court appearances. This means that the Petitioner must show that he or she respects the court by showing up to court at the times ordered.

The law allows the large majority of convictions to be expunged, except for certain charges involving sexual abuse of children.

An expungement can help with the following:

1. Getting a job or a promotion. Under California law, employers are not permitted to discriminate against people for being arrested if the arrest didn't result in a conviction. Since an expungement means that legally you were never convicted, an employer may not hold the arrest against you in any way, and may not discriminate against you because your record was expunged.

2. Getting a state license. With a few exceptions, the application process for any state license will be greatly enhanced by first expunging criminal records.

3. Possibly assist you with certain immigration issues. This is a complicated subject that certainly requires the attention of an immigration law specialist, but it seems clear that an expungement of criminal records could not harm one's case with the federal immigration authorities.

An expungement will NOT help with:

1. Help with the DMV in getting a driver's license reinstated.

2. Restore gun rights lost to the conviction.

3. End a duty to register as a sex offender in the expunged case.

Certain other limited exceptions apply. In addition, an expunged DUI may still be used as a prior conviction in a subsequent DUI case, nor will it get rid of prior strikes for sentencing enhancement purposes under any subsequent cases.

There are great benefits to expunging one's criminal record. It's important that a qualified attorney assist you in putting together this very important court filing.

I successfully handle expungements routinely. I can assist you in improving your chances of getting that job, promotion, professional license, or admission to college.

I charge a flat fee of $750 per case.

* These blog posts do not constitute legal advice.

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