A criminal record can be a major liability that will prevent you from enjoying a number of career and social opportunities. With the job market experiencing a meltdown because of the economic crisis and the recession that has been sweeping the globe, your criminal records can be one of the things that will prevent you from getting that all important job, or disqualify you from that major promotion that you have been waiting for. It can also lead you to social stigma and isolation. There are, however, ways to get your criminal records expunged in California. When you want your criminal case to be cleared, you can apply for your record to be expunged. Expungement will get rid of the unlawful actions from your record.
- Apply. To get your records expunged, you will apply for the California Penal Code Section 1203.4. According to this law, all cases of felony, misdemeanor, and cases in between these categories can be expunged, as long as probation has been granted. The only exemptions are prior criminal records, records of driving under the influence, sexual offense, and gun ownership cases. Technically, the law works not by erasing the actual criminal records. In a strictly legal sense, having your records expunged means that the records will be sealed and destroyed permanently. Using the California law, however, the records will only be altered so that guilty charges will be changed to not guilty pleas. This, however, is enough to ensure that you get better chances when it comes to employment, as well as in attaining legal offices and passing certain licensure examinations.
- Meet the criteria. There are other criteria that an applicant must meet in order to qualify for the expungement. The probation period must be over, or must have been terminated by the applicant’s lawyer. The applicant should also not be serving any criminal sentences during the time of application, and no charges should be made against the applicant during the processing of the expungement.
- Get legal help. While getting your records expunged is a relatively clear-cut process because of the penal code, it is important for you to get help from a lawyer in order to be well represented in the process. It is important to remember that various areas and states will have different types of expungement laws. Even in California, you will need the help of a good lawyer in order to win your case successfully, since the lawyer will provide you with legal advice on how to present the case and how to troubleshoot certain problems along the way.
- Various interpretations. For instance, it is not uncommon for applicants to have violated some of the criteria for expungement. Many courts will allow the case to proceed, however, if the case has been defended properly by an expert attorney. Also, the phrasing of the code can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Some courts believe that the expungement should be given immediately to those who apply for it, while other courts believe that the granting of expungement cases is based on the individual rulings of the judge in question. Because of this, the use of legal aid is highly recommended.
Whether for ensuring that you get fair access to employment opportunities, or simply to lose the stigma of a criminal record, changing your records for the better can be done with expungement laws.