There are several types of “expungements” under California law for people have previously been convicted of a crime, each that provides different forms and levels of relief.
The most common form of expungement is what is called a “1203.4”, because it is defined by Penal Code section 1203.4(a). See Cal. Penal Code § 1203.4(a). This code allows someone placed on probation for a misdemeanor or felony to enter a new plea of “Not Guilty” and have the case “dismissed” under the code. This relief is mandatory if the probationer sustained no violations of probation. If violations on probation did occur, and did not result in a prison sentence in the case of a felony, the court may nonetheless grant the relief in its discretion in the interests of justice. In either case, if the crime you were convicted has a misdemeanor “version” of the crime, your attorney can ask that the crime be reduced to a misdemeanor at the time of applying for the expungement. Certain restrictions apply, and some convictions do not qualify for this relief, or cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor, so an experienced criminal defense lawyer must be consulted to determine if the relief is available in your specific case.
If a person was sentenced to jail or no probation and was convicted of only a misdemeanor, they can have their record expunged similarly after a year under Penal Code section 1203.4a, if they are not on probation for another offense or facing charges for another offense. See Cal. Penal Code § 1203.4a. Again, certain convictions do not qualify for this relief, so an experienced criminal defense lawyer must be consulted to determine if the relief is available in your specific case.
In cases where PC 1203.4 relief is not available based on the nature of the charge, as is the case with many sex offenses, an attorney may still be able to request that the felony conviction be reduced to a misdemeanor if the crime you were convicted has a misdemeanor “version” of the crime. See Cal. Penal Code § 17(b). This only applies where a prison sentence was not imposed and probation was granted.
If a person is sentenced to prison, regardless of whether they were previously on probation for the offense that resulted in the prison sentence, or if you were convicted of a crime that is not covered under Penal Code section 1203.4, PC 1203.4 relief is not available. However, you can still apply for a “Certificate of Rehabilitation” under Penal Code sections 4800 et seq and 4853. This does not enter a dismissal on your record, but have other benefits, such as: permitting certain specified sex offenders to be relieved of their duty to register [Cal. Penal Code § 290.5(a)]; enhancing a person’s potential for becoming licensed by state boards [Cal. Penal Code § 4853]; serve as an official document indicating a person’s rehabilitation; and serves as a recommendation for a Governor’s pardon. For all of the types of benefits, and restrictions, as to what a Certificate of Rehabilitation can accomplish in your case, and to determine if you are eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, you must consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you were sentenced to prison after a felony conviction, are not eligible for 1203.4 relief, or have lifetime firearms restriction, the highest form of relief is a Governor’s pardon, which will restore many of your civil rights that a Certificate of Rehabilitation does not provide, including the right to serve on a jury, possess a firearm under most scenarios, serve as a probation or parole agent, or be relieved of the duty to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290. For all of the types of benefits, and restrictions, as to what a Governor’s pardon can accomplish in your case, and to determine if you are eligible for a pardon, you must consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Recent changes in the law under the voter initiative Proposition 47, relating to theft and drug possession offenses, requires the court to reduce matters to misdemeanors which were previously classified as felonies. This means certain specified theft crimes in which the value of the stolen property allegedly taken or possessed is worth less than $950.00, and all simple drug possession crimes, are eligible for reduction to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 1170.18, unless the defendant had been previously convicted of certain disqualifying prior convictions described in the code. See Cal. Penal Code § 1170.18.
In addition, the voters of California also recently passed the voter initiative Proposition 64, related to marijuana offenses. Under the new law, any person who was previously convicted of a marijuana offense that would not have been a crime, or would be a misdemeanor, if committed today is eligible to have their record expunged to allow the new classification be shown. See Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11361.8. For instance, possession of marijuana for sale under Health & Safety 11359, once a straight felony offense, is now classified as a misdemeanor, and is eligible for reclassification as a misdemeanor under the new law.
The knowledgeable attorneys at Honeychurch & Boyd have extensive experience in litigating all types of expungement requests described above, and have achieved great results for their clients in these matters. If you are seeking to expunge or clean up your past criminal record in any way, do not hesitate to call Honeychurch & Boyd today for a free consultation to see how our effective attorneys may be able to help you achieve the best outcome for your case.