If you are considering an expungement, we recommend that you start by ordering a copy of your complete criminal history. This guide explains how to apply for a copy of your CA criminal record.
Top Reasons Why You Should Check Your California Criminal Record
Perhaps you are looking for a job and are anxious that a criminal problem from your past will turn up in an employer background check. Maybe you are thinking about obtaining a professional license and are concerned about qualifying with a criminal record. Or perhaps you just want to do everything possible to minimize the damage caused by a black mark on your record. If that's your situation, getting an expungement is your best course of action.
The good news is that under California law, Penal Code 1203.4, most misdemeanors and even some felony convictions can be expunged from your record.
Attorneys Michelle Spaulding and Patricia Campi of Spaulding Campi, LLP, are believers that everyone deserves a second chance. That's why they routinely handle expungements for their clients and support Ban the Box laws. After all, how can people with criminal pasts become rehabilitated members of society when old criminal records prevent them from getting jobs?
The first step to finding out whether you qualify for an expungement is to examine your California criminal record commonly known as a rap sheet. The easiest way to examine a report that includes all California county courts is to order the record from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Sacramento.
Due to privacy concerns, access to your criminal history by the DOJ is restricted by law to law enforcement purposes and authorized applicant agencies such as government agencies. Even your attorney is not allowed to request this report for you.
However, you can order it yourself and have it mailed to your home address. To order a copy of your California criminal record, you'll need to fill out an application that you can obtain from the Department of Justice website at https://oag.ca.gov/fingerprints/security.
One of the questions on the application asks "Reason for Application". In that entry, write "Review record for accuracy." As with personal credit reports, you have the right to request a copy of your own criminal history to review it for accuracy and completeness.
Get Live Scan Fingerprinted and Pay the Fee
Next, you'll need to visit an authorized fingerprinting center to complete a live scan. Fingerprinting can be done at many sites around the state of California and the list of authorized live scan locations is found here: https://oag.ca.gov/fingerprints/locations. Many UPS stores are authorized live scan providers.
When you visit the live scan facility, bring the completed form with you along with your ID. You will also have to pay for the live scan rolling fee as well as the criminal record check fee.
Await the Results in the Mail
The Department of Justice will review your request and send you the results in the mail. Unfortunately, they do not offer an expedited email service. In our experience, it usually takes a couple of weeks to receive the results.
When you receive the results, you'll see both convictions and arrests and your attorney can help you decipher what can be a confusing report. While the arrest information is available to you, keep in mind that only a conviction can be used against you for employment hiring decisions. So long as no charges are pending, an employer cannot legally use the arrest information against you.
Decide Whether to Get an Expungement
If you find that your criminal history shows not only arrests, but also convictions, you may qualify for an expungement. Many people believe that an expungement in California completely wipes your criminal record so that no one can find out about your past arrests, charges, or convictions. While this is not the case unless you are also able to have your record sealed and destroyed, an expungement can "clear" or "dismiss" a conviction.
If you qualify, your case will be reopened and a judge will set aside your conviction or guilty plea. Because your case was dismissed after your not-guilty plea, it will be as though you were not ever convicted of the offense.
Per California law, it is unlawful for a public or private employer to inquire into or seek information about a conviction that has been set-aside and dismissed. Cal. Labor Code Section 432.7(a); Cal.Code Regs. tit. 2 7287.4(d)(1)
Keep in mind that many California counties require a court visit called an expungement hearing as part of the process. While some low cost paralegal organizations offer expungement services, these services may only handle the form filing part and as non-attorneys are unable to handle the court visit. There are other potential pitfalls with the expungement process. For instance some convictions must first be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor before they are eligible for expungement. For these reason, you are encouraged to contact a qualified criminal attorney for a free consultation before deciding how to proceed with your expungement.
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