In California, the term dismissal and expungement are often used interchangeably but there are subtle differences that are important to note between the two.

Dismissal can be described as the situation whereby an offender’s records show that charges had been brought before him/her and were later dropped. It should, however, be noted that there will be a history of the offender’s arrest, and even after the dismissal, the case file and arrest record remain public records. Therefore, for the absolute removal of such records from public access, the records ought to be expunged.

Getting an expungement, on the other hand, is the complete elimination of your arrest and case file records from public access. Moreover, expungement is only invoked where the arrest records did not end in anything more than the filing of charges that were later dismissed. 

Expungement must not be confused with sealing recods. Sealing records involves the process of removing the resolution of a case.

While dismissal and expungement are often used interchangeably, expungement basically refers to ‘dismissal pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4.’

Who is Eligible for Expungement?

Expungement is a relief granted to any defendants as long as:

  • The offender has successfully fulfilled the terms of his probation
  • The offender committed a felony or misdemeanor and was not incarcerated in state prison
  • The offender served time in state prison but would have served in the county jail had the crime been committed after the implementation of Proposition 47

The Impact of Expungement in California?

Penal Code Section 1203.4 allows a defendant to withdraw a plea of not guilty or a plea of no contest, to re-enter a plea of not guilty, and to have the case dismissed provided the conditions of probation have been fulfilled or where the court deems fit. This relief is granted in all cases except as provided in Section 13555 of the Vehicle Code.

Upon being granted this relief, expungement releases a person from the undesirable consequences of a criminal conviction. In other words, this section allows for expungement to release a person from all penalties, sanctions, and probable disabilities arising out of the conviction.

To be precise, the main advantage of an expunged conviction is that it frees the individual from having to disclose the conviction to potential employers in job applications.

Despite the requirement for employers to inquire on a job seeker’s criminal record when there is a conditional offer of employment on the table, an expunged conviction need not be disclosed even after the conditional offer is made.

Who is Ineligible for Expungement?

A person is ineligible for expungement if s/he:

  • Is currently charged with a criminal offense
  • Is on probation for a criminal offense
  • Is serving a sentence for a criminal offense
  • Is convicted of certain sex crimes involving children

Alternative Reliefs to Expungement

Where expungement is not a viable relief, other reliefs that can be sought are:

  • A certificate of rehabilitation
  • California governor’s pardon
  • Commutation of a California prison sentence

Don Hammond, California Expungement Hero!

The benefit of having your record expunged is that all your pertaining to your case and conviction are destroyed and cannot be discovered by a public search. Unfortunately, certain law enforcement or governmental agencies may still be able to access your records. The purpose of an expungement is to give past offenders a second chance without the stigma of a criminal record so potential employers or everyday internet searches will not reveal your past conviction.

Thinking about getting an expungement? You only need 5 reasons to get that record expunged.  If you have questions about expungement, call us at Expunge Hero for answers. We will review the facts of your case, let you know if an expungement is an option for you, and, if so, how you will benefit from making the request.

The Criminal Defense Hero Attorney Don Hammond


Get Attorney Don Hammond’s published book "Expunge a Criminal Record, How to? Getting your Life Back on Track” for free today.