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California’s Criminal Record Expungement Law Provides Real Relief

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  • California’s Criminal Record Expungement Law Provides Real Relief

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Former offenders in most states have legal remedies to help former offenders clear their criminal record, or at least minimize the harm it causes, after waiting periods are met.  Of course, no state allows all offenses and the laws vary by state.    California’s expungement law is one of the most generous to former offenders.

In order for a person to be eligible fore expungement in California, they simply need to complete probation.   The bad news is that if a person when to prison, which results in parole, they will never be eligible for expungement.  However, most offenders receive probation, and those sentences are usually one to three years long.

Once a record is expunged in California, the person can honestly say that they were not convicted in almost all circumstances.  The only noteworthy exceptions are when a person applies for a state license, such as a license to practice law or medicine, or if they apply for a public office, such as city council or school board.    As a result, expungement makes it much easier for former offenders to find employment.

Attorney Mathew Higbee says that helping former offenders find jobs is one of the main policy reasons behind expungement laws.  “Labeling people a criminal for life makes it more difficult for them to find employment and increases the chances that they will reoffend or end-up requiring unemployment or other forms of public assistance.  It makes good economic sense to allow some former offenders to expunge their record after they demonstrate that they are rehabilitated,” said Higbee.

A wide range of offenses get expunged every day in California courts, property crimes, such as petty theft and shoplifting are very common.  So to are drug possession charges and violent misdemeanors, such as domestic violence, battery and assault.

Expungment in California is governed by California Penal Code section 1203.4.  It requires that the former offender file a request for expungement with the court where the conviction occurred.   There is a filing fee that varies by county.  The typical fee is $120.  The prosecuting attorney must receive a copy of the request and have the opportunity to object to it.    Ultimately, the judge will decide whether or not to expunge a California record.

There are attorneys that specialize in expungement.  However, people who cannot afford an attorney can look to other options, such as non-profit agencies, the public defender’s office or doing it themselves.

Not all states are as generous as California.  There are about 20 states that do not allow any adult convictions to be expunged or sealed, including Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Wisconsin and Missouri.   The good news for former offenders is that many states are expanding their expungement laws.   Pennsylvania, Utah, Indiana and North Carolina are four of 17 states that expanded their expungement law in the past 2 years.

Author Bio: Ryan Holman, a legal advisor as well as a blogger who shares the issues in regards to criminal record expungement in California is keen to share its importance in order to make his reader away from miserable and challenging life.