How to Expunge Your Criminal Record in California
Those who have been unfortunate enough to end up on the wrong side of the law (whether it was probation, a misdemeanor, or a felony) do not necessarily have to be stuck with criminal conviction on their record forever. In this article, we will explain who is eligible for a records expungement in California, and what steps they need to take in order to file for it.
What is an Expungement, and Why is it Important?
Getting your record expunged is tantamount to setting aside a criminal conviction. In other words, in most cases, if your record is cleared, it is as if the conviction never happened in the eyes of the public or the law. Moreover, dismissing conviction records can be a very important factor for individuals whose criminal history has taken away certain personal liberties – such as owning a firearm– or has prevented them from getting a job due to certain background checks.
How to File for an Expungement
The California Courts website is a great resource for determining who is eligible and what one needs to file in order to delete prior conviction records.
Get the Necessary Documents
First, regardless of the expungement proceedings, it is important to have all the court dockets from your previous case(s). If you do not have them, try calling the county courthouse in which you were convicted to get the files. Alternatively, you can obtain your California criminal records from the Department of Justice if you deliver them your fingerprints and a $25 processing fee.
Once you have your documents, take note of your case/docket number, the county in which you were convicted, and the statute/code name of the crime(s)–with the last factor playing an important part regarding which form(s) to file.
Are You Eligible for a Record Dismissal?
The next step is to determine whether you’re eligible for a “dismissal” (i.e. expungement) based on your conviction. Generally speaking, you are eligible for dismissal if you were convicted of an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony, and you have not spent time in prison while being subject to the authority of the CDCR.
The court will dismiss your conviction if you meet the following requirements:
- You received probation for that conviction and have completed that probation or received early release.
- All of your fines resulting from your conviction have been paid.
- You are currently not serving another sentence or on probation for another sentence.
- You are not charged with a separate offense at present.
- It has been more than one year since your conviction date.
- You have fully obeyed the law since the time of your conviction.
Filing for Expungement
Now that you know whether you are eligible to have your criminal records cleared or not, the final and most important step is to file the appropriate forms with the proper court.
On the Clearing Your Records page of the California Courts website, scroll down to the “Figuring Out Your Options” tab, and search for your specific situation. Then you will have to contact the Clerk of the Superior Court of the county where you were convicted and ask for the exact form you need to fill in – based on your situation – and the mail address to which it should be sent. The following link displays contact information of all clerks in California.
For more details and assistance, you can turn to the relevant county’s public defender. You will find a table with contact details here.