Expunging Criminal Records in California – Useful Details

How to Expunge a Criminal Record in California

You have a criminal record you want no one else to know about? The best (and probably the only way) to make it disappear from results of criminal background checks other people will run on your name is to expunge it. Here is what you should know about the process of expunging a criminal record in California

How Much Time Does It Take For a Criminal Record to Be Cleared In California?

If your case did not end up in conviction, it will not show up in background checks 7 years after it was closed. To remove from background check results a record which ended in conviction, you will have to expunge that record.

What Happens When a Criminal Record Is Expunged?

It is important to note that if your criminal record is expunged, it will stay in the system and law enforcement agencies (the FBI) will be able to view it. Yet ordinary people, landlords, most credit agencies and private employers won’t be able to access it as any conviction you have had will be officially dismissed. However, if the employer is a governmental office or if the job you are applying to requires security clearance or an official license/permit, your criminal record will be revealed. Be advised, if you have been convicted of a sexual offense and your criminal record is expunged, you will still be obligated to register as a sex offender.

When Can My Record Be Expunged?

For your criminal record to be dismissed you mustn’t currently be incarcerated or on be on probation and at least a year has to elapse from your conviction.

Which Offenses Cannot Be Expunged?

According to the California statutes, if you served time in a California state prison or a federal prison, your offenses will not be expunged. Moreover, some severe sex crime a person has committed will not be dismissed. They include an act of sodomy with a person younger than 14 or 10 years younger than the perpetrator of the offense (PC 286 c), a lewd and lascivious act with a child (PC 288), continuous sexual act with a minor (PC 288.5) and the possession and distribution of child pornography or obscene materials (PC 311). Additional severe crimes which won’t be expunged include murder, an assault with a deadly weapon that led to injury and an act of terrorism.

As to misdemeanor offenses, a conviction related to failure to submit to a police inspection of vehicle which may endanger others (California Vehicle Code § 2800) will also not be dismissed.

How Long Will the Expungement Process Last?

Usually a few months will elapse from the moment you petition for criminal record dismissal until you get the state’s approval or denial.

What Do I Need to Do to Expunge a Criminal Record in California?

Regarding misdemeanors, you will have to download, fill out and submit a Petition for Dismissal form, referred to as CR-180, in the county where you have been convicted. When it comes to felonies, the process is longer and more complex. You’ll be asked to fill out and submit an MC-031 form, which is a petition for reducing your charge to misdemeanor. Then you’ll have to file the CR-180 dismissal form.

If your petition is accepted, a date for a hearing before a judge (no juries) will be set. The hearing won’t take long. The judge will be interested in knowing whether you have truly reformed your behavior. He/she will examine the nature of your crime and or any problems you have had with the law,  such as prior convictions or arrest records issued in California. It will be helpful to show that you have a steady job and you contribute to your community.

If your expungement request is approved you will get an order signed by a California Superior Court Judge indicating your offense has been dismissed.

What Can I Do If My Petition for Expungement Has Been Rejected?

You can inquire about the reason for denying your request. You will be able to begin the process of expungement anew only after six month have elapsed.

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