Removing Evidence of Serious Offenses
California recognizes two main types of criminal offenses: misdemeanors and felonies. Between the two, felonies are more serious, and misdemeanors are less serious. Not surprisingly, a felony conviction can hold you back in many ways and haunt you for the rest of your life. Because felonies are serious convictions and often come with a prison sentence, they can cast a stigma over you that will be hard to shake. Unfortunately, that stigma can act as a barrier to housing, employment, volunteer work, or even financing.
One way to escape the stigma of a criminal conviction is to clean your record. Cleaning your record removes certain pieces of information from your criminal record, so employers, landlords, and lenders don't discover your criminal past. In most cases, you cannot completely erase all evidence of a criminal past from your record, but removing certain key pieces of information can be enough to level the playing field when you go to apply for a job, for housing, a loan, or for financial assistance. The most common method of cleaning your record is getting a conviction dismissed. This is done through the process of expungement.
Certain misdemeanor convictions can be dismissed from your record if you meet certain requirements and petition the court. If dismissed, the conviction no longer appears on a background check. The arrest still could, and your official governmental rap sheet will still show the conviction, but you will not have to disclose the conviction when applying for most jobs. Cleaning a felony from your record, however, isn't always as cut and dry.
Wobbler felonies—those that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony—can be dismissed in a process similar to dismissing a misdemeanor with one extra step. If you were convicted of a felony, but the offense could have been charged as a misdemeanor, you can petition the court to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor. Once this occurs, you can petition the court to dismiss the misdemeanor offense. If you aren't sure if your felony was a wobbler, go through your court records and look up the specific legal code for your offense. You could also contact an attorney who can help you determine whether your offense was a wobbler.
Straight felonies offenses—those that can only be charged as felonies—are handled a little differently. If you were convicted of a non-wobbler felony and were sentenced to county jail or probation, you could petition the court to dismiss your conviction. If you were convicted of a felony and sentenced to state prison, you are not eligible for dismissal. If sentenced to state prison, your options for cleaning your record and clearing your name are limited. Typically, you can improve your chances of getting a job or housing by applying for a certificate of rehabilitation. This does not remove the conviction from your criminal record. But a certificate of rehabilitation can demonstrate to the public that you served your debt to society and had been rehabilitated from your criminal ways.
The process for cleaning a felony from your record can be difficult and fraught with red tape. Not all felony convictions can be reduced or dismissed, and not all petitions for dismissal will be granted. You can liken it to applying for a job; you need to demonstrate to the court why the dismissal would be in the interests of justice. In other words, you need to do more than just fill out a form and pay a fee. You will need to present a compelling argument for your request to show the court you deserve it.
California law allows those with criminal convictions to take certain steps to clean their record, but the ways you can clean a felony conviction from your record are limited. Nevertheless, it is worth your time to speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney about your options. If you have a felony conviction on your record, you should consider what you could do to clean your record to minimize the effect your criminal past will have on your life. An attorney can explain your options and eligibility and help you through the process of cleaning your record step by step.
If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and have questions about cleaning your record, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. California criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens will work hard to clean your record so you can move on with your life. Attorney Martens has handled thousands of cases over a span of ten years of criminal defense practice and can fight hard for your rights. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for experienced criminal defense counsel today. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.