Felony expungement in California: PC 1203.4
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A past felony conviction can make life very difficult, restricting one’s access to jobs, housing, and other benefits which are freely enjoyed by others. But for many individuals convicted of felony offenses in California, there is hope.
California Penal Code 1203.4/1203.4a offers provisions for the expungement of felony convictions from public criminal records, for individuals meeting certain eligibility criteria. A successful expungement under this code effectively wipes out a felony conviction as though it never happened, with a few exceptions for certain types of crimes.
A felony conviction can make life very difficult long after an individual has paid the price for their crime. With the prevalence of easy-to-search databases which can be accessed via the Internet for a small fee, it’s easy for employers to search criminal records, and job applicants with prior felony convictions are often denied employment as a result. Fortunately, California Penal Code sections 1203.4/1203.4a, and now 1203.42, does provide a way for some individuals to expunge their felony convictions from public records.
Why seek felony expungement?
Landlords, professional organizations, and other agencies also routinely check criminal record databases when considering applications. A mistake made in years or decades past can limit one’s access to housing, jobs, and other benefits freely enjoyed by others. Felony expungement offers relief from these burdens. However, felony expungement cannot completely restore all rights and freedoms. Certain restrictions, such prohibitions on firearm ownership, and the requirement to register as a sex offender (if applicable), cannot be nullified by felony expungement.
Who is eligible for felony expungement in California?
In general, a person is eligible for felony expungement if they successfully completed probation (or never received probation) for a felony conviction received in California, and they are not currently charged with, are on probation for, or are serving a sentence for a criminal offense. In other words, they must be completely clear of the criminal justice system. However, there are some exceptions and loopholes in the eligibility requirements – only an experienced post-conviction relief attorney can provide advice on these matters.
Who is not eligible?
Previously, anyone who served time in state prison for a California felony offense was not eligible to have that felony conviction expunged from their record. However, on September 1, 2017, Governor Brown signed AB 1115, enacting Penal Code section 1203.42, which allows expungement of cases that would now be eligible for county jail sentences under California’s Realignment Act, AB 109. Also, certain convictions cannot be expunged, particularly sex offenses against children, such as felony convictions pursuant to 261.5 PC, Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a Person Under 18, which is sometimes referred to as statutory rape.
How does felony expungement work?
In California, expunging a felony requires the case to be re-opened, the guilty verdict to be withdrawn, and the charges dismissed. The net result is as though the conviction never happened, other than the limitations noted above. Although this sounds like a complex legal procedure, standardized forms are utilized to file a petition to dismiss a felony. While it is possible for someone to successfully pursue a felony expungement action on their own, the services of a qualified attorney will ensure a higher likelihood of success.