What Is an Expungement?
Think of an expungement as a “clean slate.” It gives you a chance to start over without a blemish on your criminal record. More specifically, an expungement is a petition that you file with the court asking for relief under a specific penal code section (usually Penal Code section 1203.4 or 1203.4a). That petition, if granted, will mean the court reopens your case, withdraws your guilty or “no contest” (nolo contendere) plea, and dismisses the charges against you. In a way, it’s like using a time machine to go back and undo the conviction. After the expungement, you can truthfully tell future employers that you don’t have that criminal conviction.
Fair warning, though: A successful expungement doesn’t completely erase your record. Depending on your conviction, there may be other legal restrictions that would still apply to you, such as restrictions regarding owning firearms. We can discuss that with you when we get more information about your specific case. Also, if you are applying for a license with the State of California (a real estate license or a contractor’s license, for example), you will still need to disclose the conviction, although you can also say that the conviction was expunged, which should increase your chances of being approved.
How Can an Expungement Help Me?
Finding a good job posting is hard. Getting an actual employment offer is even tougher. For every job posting out there, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants competing for the spot. Even in this tight labor market, you’re going to face a lot of competition. If you’ve got a blemish on your criminal record, no matter how minor, it can send you to the bottom of the list.
You may be thinking that the new “ban the box” laws in California will help improve your chances of finding a job, despite your prior record. Well… yes and no. First, the law prohibits employers from asking about prior convictions at the application stage. (Although we’ve seen plenty of employers who are continuing to ask the question anyway.) But the law doesn’t prevent employers from conducting a criminal background check. And if they do that check and find out that you have a criminal conviction, they can rescind a job offer or fire you on the spot.
We had one client who applied for a job, made it through the interview process, and was given a job offer. He actually started work at the new employer before the background check results came in. After working there for about a week, the results came in, and the employer discovered that our client had an old DUI on his record. They fired him, even though he was doing great in training, and even though it was an office job that had nothing to do with driving. That client became unemployed, because he had already left his old job to start the new job. Don’t let that happen to you!
How Much Will This Cost Me?
We offer a flat-rate legal fee, dependent on the number and level of convictions on your record. Please call us at (949) 252-2634 for a more precise quote.
Can I Do My Own Expungements?
Absolutely. If you’d like to give it a shot yourself, you could contact your local Legal Aid office or see what resources you can find online. There are some basic forms available online that you can fill out if you want to try filing yourself.
Fair warning, though: the process can be pretty confusing and time-consuming for most people. Even though the forms look simple, the average person has a really difficult time figuring out which boxes to check, or whether they qualify for an expungement at all. We’re not saying this to discourage you, though. If you’re determined to try to file it by yourself, go for it. You might spend some time and lose the cost of the filing fees, but if you get rejected, you can hire us to try again on your behalf.
If you don’t want to risk filling out the paperwork, paying the filing fee, and then waiting a couple of months only to find out that your petition was rejected due to a minor defect, we encourage you to call us first. While we can’t guarantee what a judge will or won’t do on any given day, we do have experience in filing these petitions, and we can improve your odds of having your petition granted.
Is There Any Guarantee That This Will Work?
In short, no. Judges are people, and people aren’t 100% predictable. If a judge has a bad day, he or she could end up taking it out on you, and there’s not much you can do about that. That’s why there’s no such thing as a “slam dunk” in the legal world. Anybody who tells you different is just telling you what you want to hear.
That said, preparation is key. We can help by completing your petition and including as much supporting information as we can gather to give you the best shot at having your conviction expunged as quickly as possible.