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How to Expunge a Criminal Record

An expunged criminal record means that a defendant's prior criminal conviction is cleared from public records as a conviction. This is true even if the defendant (Petitioner) was actually criminal convicted of the crime that he now seeks to expunge.


Most, but not all, misdemeanors, felonies, and infractions may be expunged. However, the burden of proof required in order to expunge a criminal record will depend on the exact crime for which the defendant was convicted. For example, expunging a criminal conviction for vehicular manslaughter (PC 192(c)) is much more difficult than expunging a criminal conviction for misdemeanor shoplifting (PC 490.5).


Employment & Expungement: Obtaining an expungement is excellent for anyone searching for better employment and professional licenses (i.e. doctors, nurses, lawyers, therapists, teachers, dentists, psychologist, etc.). With limitation, an expunged criminal record generally allows a person to claim that he or she has not been convicted of the expunged crime on employment applications.

Court Process: To expunge a criminal record the defendant will need to file and serve required expungement paperwork, including declarations, to various public agencies, including the court, the district attorney, and the probation department where the conviction was entered. The defendant will receive his or her court date upon the filing of the expungement paperwork. Any arguments proffered in support of an expungement request should made by a criminal defense lawyer if possible. The whole process, from filing to final court hearing on the matter usually takes 1-2 months depending on the severity of the underlying crime and other factors.

The following are the requirements for an expungement when the defendant was granted probation:

  • The defendant is no longer on probation, and

  • The defendant is not currently on probation for any offense, and

  • The defendant is not currently charged with committing any new offense

The following are requirements for an expungement when the defendant was not granted probation:

  • There has been at least a year from the date of conviction, and

  • The defendant fully complied with his or her sentence, and

  • The defendant is not now serving a sentence for any new offense, and

  • The defendant is not currently charged with committing a new offense

Some convictions are not eligible for expungement. These convictions include the following sex crimes: PC 286(c) Sodomy of a Minor; PC 288.5 Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Minor; PC 288a(c) [New 287 Law] Oral Copulation with a Minor; PC 289(j) Sexual Penetration of a Minor; PC 288 Lewd Acts Crimes; PC 311 Child Pornography Crimes; PC 261.5(d) Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a Minor, and the following vehicle offenses: VC 42001.1 misdemeanor evading crimes.


Some conviction are eligible for expungement but only if the judge finds that expunging the defendant’s record is in the best interest of justice. These crimes include PC 192.5 & 192(c) vehicular manslaughter; (VC 20001 & 20002) Hit and Run Driving; VC 23152 & 23153 DUI; VC 23103 Reckless Driving; VC 2800.2 & 2800.3 Evading; VC 23109 Speed Contest; VC 14601 & 14601.1-5 Driving While License is Suspended; and more.​


Limitations: As stated, expungements are great for clearing criminal records so that a defendant has a much better chance at obtaining employment or a professional license. However, an expunged record is not a complete clearing of the defendant's criminal history. For example, an expunged criminal record may still be used against the defendant in the following situations:


  • By the federal government in immigration cases. Criminal convictions, even if expunged, may still be used by the federal government against immigrants in deportation proceedings.

  • By the federal government in military enrollment decisions. The federal government may use a criminal conviction, even if the conviction is expunged, in deciding whether or not to accept an applicant for military service.

  • In subsequent criminal cases. Criminal convictions that are expunged may still be used to prove a prior conviction in a subsequent criminal case.​​​

  • By professional licensing agencies. Criminal convictions, even if expunged, must still be disclosed, if directly questioned, by an applicant for professional license or public office, including the California State Lottery Commission. Note: One criminal conviction for a misdemeanor, which is successfully expunged, should not be used against an applicant in his effort to obtain a professional or occupational license (i.e. doctor, dentist, lawyer, therapist, dentist, teacher, etc.).

  • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may use a criminal record, even if expunged, against the driver for purposes of accruing points against the driver’s record, suspending the driver’s license, and more.​​

  • Note: Other exceptions may apply.

Certificate of Rehab: As stated, most crimes are eligible for an expungement, even most felony conviction, so long as the defendant is not on probation and he or she is not facing new criminal charges. For cases that are not eligible for an expungement, a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Pardon may be available for the defendant.

Seal & Destroy Criminal Record: An expungement does not seal or destroy a criminal record. The defendant’s criminal record will remain visible to anyone searching local databases for the defendant’s criminal history; however, the display of the criminal record will show that the defendant entered a plea of not guilty and the criminal case was thereafter dismissed.

To learn more about expungements, including eligibility requirements, or timing and service requirements, contact criminal our expungement attorneys today for a free consultation. Our attorneys have successfully handled hundreds of expungement cases and we are available every day of the week to answer all of your questions. Call today!


Criminal Defense Lawyers


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