Sealing the Past
Cleaning your criminal record can be fraught with exceptions, exclusions, and requirements that may make it seem like no matter what you do, someone somewhere will be able to view your conviction history. This is true in many cases; sometimes cleaning your record alters what is on your record but does not completely erase your criminal history. In a few select cases, however, information on your criminal record can be sealed and then erased permanently. These different ways of cleaning your record are different processes with different eligibility requirements.
There are two main ways you can clean your criminal record: sealing it and expunging it. Let me first explain how these both work.
Dismissing a Conviction
Expunging your record is really just the process of having a past criminal conviction dismissed from your record. The conviction is not erased, and your criminal record is not sealed. What happens instead is your case is opened up and your plea or verdict is changed to not guilty. The conviction will then appear as “dismissed in the interests of justice” on your record. Your case is then closed again.
After an expungement, you can answer “no” on most job applications when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. You will still have to disclose the conviction to certain employers, such as federal, state, or local government agencies. In this case, however, you can also disclose that the conviction was dismissed. In some cases, an expungement may restore some of your rights as well. For example, you may have your gun rights restored. The original conviction will still show up your state and federal criminal records, but will note the dismissal. An expungement is the only option for many people hoping to clean up their criminal record and has many benefits that make it worth it, even if the conviction will still appear on your record.
Erasing a Conviction
Sealing your record is a different process and one that is available to relatively few applicants. Many people think that your juvenile record is destroyed once you turn 18. This does not happen automatically. Once you turn 18, however, you are then eligible to petition to have your juvenile record sealed and destroyed. If your petition to have your record sealed is accepted, your juvenile record will be sealed, and no one will be able to gain access to it. After five years, the record will be permanently destroyed. In this case, no one can view your juvenile records, and you do not need to disclose any information on the record on most job applications.
You can also have certain pieces of information from your adult criminal record sealed and erased. All convictions for possession of marijuana for personal use will be erased from your record after two years. There is no formal sealing procedure for this. Likewise, arrest entries on your criminal record can be sealed and erased if the arrest did not result in a conviction. To do so, you must file a petition with the court.
If you want to clean up your criminal record, speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. Cleaning your record has many benefits, but the process can be difficult. If you have not completed probation or fulfilled all the requirements of your sentence, you will have to take additional steps if you want to get a conviction dismissed. And, if you were convicted of a felony and sentenced to state prison, you are not eligible to seal or expunge your record at all. Those sentenced to state prison can only apply to get a certificate of rehabilitation and a governor's pardon. This does not erase a conviction from your record but rather provides a record that the state of California has pardoned you for your wrongdoings. This can help demonstrate good character when applying for a job.
If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about cleaning your record, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you take the steps you need to clean your record and move on with your life. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.