Expungement

The expungement process lets you substantially clear up your criminal record, improving your chances of being offered employment, securing a professional license, or obtaining other benefits.

Attorney Deep Goswami specializes in helping clients expunge criminal records, seal juvenile records, and obtain certificates of rehabilitation and pardons.


QUESTION:

When you plead no contest to a misdemeanor, will it go on your record -- and can you be charged in civil court for the same crime?

ANSWER:

A no contest plea -- known often by its Latin name "nolo contendere" -- means that you agree to accept the punishment without formally acknowledging that you are guilty. It does go on the record, in the sense that the court record for the case will indicate a no contest pleA: A credit or background reporting agency and anyone who looks at the public court record will see and can report the pleA:

Where you nearly lost me was over this business of being charged with a crime in civil court. A civil case does not involve a "charge." In civil cases, individuals sue each other, usually over money -- which rather makes you wonder why they are called civil cases.

If you are sued in a civil case over the same incident that also involved a criminal charge, a guilty plea or verdict from the earlier criminal case could be introduced against you in the civil case as proof that you did the deed. But if you have entered a no contest plea, that can not be used as evidence of guilt at a civil trial. In fact, that's the main reason people have for entering a no contest pleA:

The plaintiff in the civil case will have to produce other proof that you are responsible for the event -- and will have an easier time of it than the prosecutor in the criminal case, since the standard of proof will be simply a preponderance of the evidence and not beyond a reasonable doubt.



Q: What is expungement?

A: Expungement is often equated to the sealing or destroying of legal records. Each state offers its own definition of expungement, based on different rules and laws. Generally, expungement can be viewed as the process to "remove from general review" the records pertaining to a case. But the records may not completely "disappear" and may still be available to law enforcement.

An expungement is a legal process by which you can withdraw your plea of guilty (or not contest) and have your case dismissed. The expungement process involves analysis of your case and situation, research, filing paperwork, and a hearing before the relevant court. We help clients to:

Withdraw their pleas and get their cases dismissed
-Expunge misdemeanor or felony
-Get felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors
-Seal and destroy juvenile records
-Get arrest records expunged
-Obtain Certificates of Rehabilitation and Pardons
-End Penal Code Section 290 Sex Registration
-Petition for findings of factual innocence



Q: What can be expunged?

A: Generally, all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system can be expunged. Each state sets its own guidelines for what records can be expunged.



Q: Are juvenile records expunged?

A: Most states have laws that allow, or possibly even require, the expungement of juvenile records once the juvenile reaches a certain age. In some cases, the records are destroyed; sometimes they are simply "sealed." The purpose of these laws is to allow a minor who has committed criminal acts, or in the language of the juvenile courts, "delinquent acts," to erase his record permanently, usually at the age of 17 or 18. The idea is to allow the juvenile offender to enter adulthood with a "clean slate," shielding him from the negative effects of having a criminal record.



Q: Who can get their court record expunged?

A: Eligibility for an expungement of arrest, investigation, or detention record will be based on state law. Often a number of conditions must be met before the request will be considered, including:

A minimum length of time has passed since arrest
There have been no intervening arrests
The proceedings were dismissed
Acquittal
Discharge without conviction and no charges were refiled
Release without formal charges being filed
Any juvenile records have been expunged



Q: Can an expungment be denied?

A: Yes. Each state sets its' own standards. Some factors which may contribute to a denial include:
Time period required by law has not been met. This time period often does not begin until all confinement and probation has been completed and fines are paid.
Additional convictions exists
A previous expungement exits
Pending arrest(s)
Conviction of a sexual offense
Registered sex offender
Court records indicate that the case is still open.



Q: If my record is expunged, do I have to ever have to acknowledge the case again?

A: With limited exception, you may thereafter truthfully state that you were never arrested, charged, or accused of a crime. In the eyes of the law, the entire incident never occurred. In most respects, a sealing or expungement restores you to the status you occupied before being arrested or charged.

You should be aware that the federal government need not honor the expungement, nor does an expungement of a conviction necessarily relieve a person from having to disclose it in an application for public office or on some professional license applications.



Q: Can previously sealed records ever be unsealed?

A: Possibly. Previously sealed records can be unsealed in some states under specified conditions.



Q: Are records ever "automatically" expunged?

A: Arrest and conviction records aren't automatically expunged or sealed after a period of years. Individuals seeking expungement generally have to apply (in writing) and follow the established procedure.



Q: How long will my criminal record stay on the books?

A: Criminal records are maintained indefinitely. It's not true that criminal records go away after a certain amount of time.



Q: What is a certificate of Rehabilitation?

A: A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a process by which a Judge in a competent court of the County, which you reside in, will determine whether you have been rehabilitated following a felony conviction. If the Judge finds that you have been successfully rehabilitated, then he or she will sign the order of rehabilitation and recommend that the Governor consider you for a Pardon.



Q: How long do I have to wait before applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

A: Generally, a minimum of seven (7) years after release from custody.



Q: How long does the process of applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation take?

A: The process can vary from county to county, but generally we can have the petition filed and heard within 120 days.



Q: What are the benefits of a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

A: There are many benefits to a Certificate of Rehabilitation. First, it's an automatic application for a Governor's pardon. Moreover, if you receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation, you cannot be denied a State license. The Certificate also indicates to prospective employers that you have overcome whatever problems led to your criminal conviction, and you have now begun a fresh start.



Q: How can my arrest record be sealed?

A: There are a number of ways to seal records. The most common are 1.) Sealing of Juvenile records, 2.) Sealing of arrest records, 3.) Sealing of records after plea withdrawl and case dismissal.



Q: How do I know if I qualify for sealing my juvenile record?

A: Generally, if you were convicted of a crime in juvenile court and have not suffered another serious conviction in your adult life, you are eligible to seal your juvenile record. There are crimes that do not qualify for sealing.



Q: How do I find out if I qualify to have my adult (or juvenile) arrest record sealed?

A: Generally, If you are arrested and either no accusatory pleading was filed or the DA dismissed the case, or you were found not-guilty after trial, you can petition the arresting agency or the court to seal the arrest record. If you prove that you were factually innocent of the charges, then the arrest record is ordered sealed for 3 years and destroyed thereafter.



Q: After my record is expunged, can I answer "No" if I'm asked whether I have a criminal record?

A: Yes. If you expunge the record of your case, you can legally answer "No". If you are asked whether you have a criminal record. There are 3 exceptions: 1.) If you plan to become a peace officer or run for public office. 2.) If you want to work for the California Lottery commission, or 3.) if you want to apply for a State License.



Q: Will expunging my record help me find a better job?

A: Often times, yes. If the employer doesn't run a background check, then they will never find out about the conviction because you can legally not disclose your prior criminal record. Even if an employer does a background check, because the record was expunged, the employer will know that you successfully completed all the terms of your sentence and are now ready to make a "new start"



Q: Will expunging my record help me with obtaining a State licnse?

A: Yes. Many of the licensing authorities require that you expunge the record of your conviction prior to the issuance of the license. If you obtain a "Certificate of Rehabilitation", you cannot be denied a State License.



Q: What happens when I Expunge my record?

A: In California, when you expunge your record, your plea of guilty or no-contest, or conviction after trial, will be set aside by a judge, a plea of "not-guilty" will be entered on your behalf and your case is dismissed.



Q: How do I find out if I can have my record expunged?

A: Generally, if you committed a felony or misdemeanor and were not incarcerated in a State prison facility, and you fulfilled all the obligations and terms of your probation, you qualify.



Q: What is "Felony Reduction"

A: If you have a conviction for a "Wobbler" (a crime that can be either charged as a felony or misdemeanor), you can generally reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor.



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