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The National Trial Lawyers
1801 Century Park East, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Expungement

Los Angeles Expungement Lawyer Brian Michaels aggressively pursues expungement of criminal records for his clients. Expungement of criminal records is of critical concern to anyone with a prior conviction, or considering a guilty or no contest plea to a current offense. Expungement is a term that means different things in different jurisdictions; generally, it refers to the cleansing of one's criminal record.

Expungement, when properly done, can remove hurdles to employment, professional licenses, and allow the convicted party to put the matter behind them for all time. In addition to the legal relief an expungement provides, it also can remove the cloud of the criminal case from following you in your personal life.

When does 1203.4 apply?

This section applies in any case in which probation was granted, whether misdemeanor, wobbler, or felony. If probation expires, or is terminated by the defense lawyer bringing a motion to terminate probation early), the defendant may be able to have the criminal conviction expunged, if all other factors are met.

The criteria for obtaining an expungement is set forth in the statute itself: the person seeking expungement must determine that the petitioner is not (a) serving a sentence of any offense, (b) on probation for any offense, or (c) charged with the commission of any offense. If any of these three things are happening, the petition for relief will be summarily denied.

What relief is available?

Expungement can take many forms. The relief available will depend on the type of conviction (misdemeanor, felony, or "wobbler"), the type of sentence received (probation with or without jail time, state prison), the age of the offender (juvenile or adult), and whether a claim for factual innocence can be made out.

California criminal offenses are defined by the type of punishment that can be imposed. Misdemeanors are offenses that are punishable by a fine, and/or up to one year in county jail. Felonies are punishable by a fine, and by custody in state prison. Wobblers are cases that can be punished by either up to one year in county jail, or by imprisonment in state prison.

The most common type of Expungement relief available in California is authorized by California Penal Code Section 1203.4. Generally section 1203.4 allows for an individual to withdraw their guilty plea or conviction and instead have the case dismissed such that a conviction will no longer have to be reported by the client.

What expungement does NOT do

Prior convictions: there are certain crimes that are "priorable", meaning that if arrested for a similar crime in the future, the punishment may be enhanced. For example, petty theft is a misdemeanor. However, petty theft with a prior theft conviction is a wobbler, meaning it may be punished as a felony or misdemeanor. If someone is arrested for petty theft with a prior, and the prior was expunged, the fact of the expungement will not save the person from being charged as a felony.

Prior DUI convictions: 1203.4 specifically states that expungement will not have any impact on the use of a DUI conviction as a prior. This means that if DUI conviction number 1 is expunged, and the person is arrested for DUI number 2 (within ten years), it will be prosecuted as a second-offense DUI, with all the enhanced punishments and penalties, regardless of the expungement of DUI number 1.

Gun ownership: There are certain offenses for which probation may be granted (the first critical inquiry for expungement eligibility) that prevent that person from lawful gun ownership for a specified period of time. An expungement will not restore those gun ownership privileges.

Sex Offender registration: There are also certain offenses where probation may be granted (the first critical inquiry for expungement eligibility) that require lifetime registration as a sex offender.

The expungement pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1203.4 does not provide as much relief as most desire. It does not act as an "eraser" of criminal records. It does, however, have many benefits, chiefly in the area of job applications in the private sector. However, there is an emotional component as well: for those that have suffered misdemeanor convictions, and have learned their lesson, obtaining an expungement provides a lifting of the psychic baggage that many probationers have carried for a long, long time. As to them, expungement is a priceless commodity.

Regardless of the offense, if you have a conviction that you would like to dismiss in order to restore your life, an expungement can be life altering. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Michaels has never had a motion to expunge a criminal record ever denied by a court.