Expungement in California: Clearing Your Criminal Record for a Fresh Start

The no double jeopardy rule means that, if you get acquitted in criminal court, the acquittal is forever. You cannot face criminal charges again in relation to the same incident. A conviction, even though it has the potential to affect you for the rest of your life, is less final. When a judge sentences you to X number of years in prison, it is not always set in stone that this is what will happen. Defendants have the right to appeal their convictions or their sentences. Even if you do not file an appeal, or even if you appeal and the appeals court rules against you, you will eventually be up for parole. It is also possible to get a conviction removed from your record through judicial dismissal; although California uses the term “judicial dismissal” to refer to the removal of conviction records, most other states refer to this process as “expungement.” A Whittier criminal law attorney can help you navigate the quickly changing process of getting your criminal conviction dismissed.

What Does Expungement Do?

Expungement of a criminal conviction removes the conviction from your criminal record so that prospective employers and landlords cannot see it when they do a criminal background check. In California, judicial dismissal occurs when a judge retroactively changes a defendant’s plea to not guilty and then dismisses the charges; if the defendant originally pleaded not guilty but was convicted at trial, the court changes the record so that the not guilty plea resulted in a dismissal of charges. In other words, future employers and landlords will see that you were charged with a crime but not convicted. The conviction record still shows up on pre-employment background checks for law enforcement and education jobs. It also still appears in the court’s database such that, if you get a judicial dismissal of your first DUI and you get arrested for drunk driving again, you will be charged with repeat offense DUI.

In order to be eligible for a judicial dismissal, you must complete your jail time, probation, or both, and then stay on the right side of the law for an additional four years. In California, you automatically get your voting rights restored after a felony conviction as soon as you complete your sentence, so judicial dismissal does not affect how soon you will be able to vote again. A judicial dismissal does not restore your right to own firearms. If the judicial dismissal is for a conviction that required you to register as a sex offender, the judicial dismissal does not affect when, if ever, your name will be removed from the sex offender registry.

Judicial Dismissal of Convictions in California Just Got Easier

Until recently, defendants had to apply on an individual basis to get a judicial dismissal of a criminal conviction. Under the old system, the only convictions that were eligible for judicial dismissal were misdemeanors and wobbler offenses, which are criminal charges that judges have the discretion to classify as misdemeanors or felonies. The charge that resulted in the greatest number of applications for judicial dismissal was DUI.

Senate Bill 731, which went into effect last year, expands eligibility for judicial dismissal of criminal convictions. Now almost all crimes are eligible. Sex-related felonies are the exception; it is still possible to get a judicial dismissal of a misdemeanor sex offense such as solicitation of commercial sex, such that your name can remain on the sex offender registry even after the court has recorded a judicial dismissal of your conviction. In practice, most people convicted of the most serious felonies will never become eligible for judicial dismissal; if you get a 30-year prison sentence, you cannot become eligible for judicial dismissal until you stay on the right side of the law for 34 years.

Another provision of SB 731 goes into effect in the summer of 2024. Pursuant to the new law, the courts will begin entering judicial dismissals for all convictions where four years have passed since the defendant has completed his or her sentence, and the defendant has not received any additional convictions since the original conviction. This means that 225,000 Californians will have convictions removed from their records this year. Every year, new defendants will become eligible, as the fourth anniversary of their completion of their sentences approaches. Say what you will about everything being expensive in California; the Golden State gives people a golden opportunity to rebuild their careers if they got into trouble with the law when they were younger.

Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum About Criminal Defense Cases

A criminal defense attorney can help you consider factors such as judicial dismissal eligibility when deciding whether to plead guilty or not guilty. Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates APLC in Whittier, California to set up a consultation.


California criminal records: Expungement law gives a fresh start – CalMatters

A Whittier criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid a criminal conviction or become eligible for judicial dismissal as quickly as possible.