In California, Penal Code section 1203.4 allows for certain qualified individuals to have their prior pleas withdrawn from a preexisting conviction, and to have the prior convictions deemed dismissed. This process is called an expungement. Additionally, certain felony convictions are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors under Penal Code section 17(b) if the felony is a “wobbler” which means it could have been charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. After filing a motion with the court and having a hearing on the merits of the expungement, the previously entered guilty or “no contest” plea or finding of guilt by a judge or jury is set aside by the court and the case is deemed dismissed. While an expungement does not completely erase a person’s criminal record, it does relieve them of many penalties they face as a result of their conviction.
Clearing your criminal record with an expungement will in essence wipe your record of any prior convictions and has many benefits. It can help you with admission into college, can help in obtaining a loan or credit line, can help in obtaining a license for certain professions that will not admit you with convictions on your record and, perhaps most importantly, will also help you pass background checks and ultimately can be the difference between getting a job and being denied employment. Once the court dismisses your prior convictions, you may truthfully answer no when asked by a private employer if you have ever been convicted of a criminal offense.
Some factors involved in determining whether you are eligible for an expungement are the size of your record, the amount of convictions on your record, the amount of time that has passed since your last conviction, whether or not you were successful on probation, whether you paid all fees and fines to the court, whether you currently have an on going case or current term of probation and whether or not you served actual time in State Prison. Speaking to a qualified Santa Rosa expungement attorney is the first step in finding out if you qualify for relief under Penal Code sections 1203.4 or 17(b).
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