The criminal justice system in California has delineated in the penal code a specific measure, accessible to some, that allows for the expungement of a conviction. California Penal Code 1203.4 grants individuals the ability to expunge, or dismiss, the “penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted.” However, not everyone that has been convicted of an offense is eligible for expungement; the individual must meet certain criteria. Moreover, an expungement does not mean a criminal record is completely erased from all databases; there are also certain limitations after the fact.
First, who qualifies for an expungement according to Penal Code 1203.4? This measure is available to those convicted of misdemeanors or felonies and have fully completed the probation for the committed offense. Those who do not qualify are those who are currently being charged with an offense or are serving their probation/sentence for the offense. Moreover, certain crimes also make an individual ineligible, such as sex crimes with minors. For the criterion regarding the completion of probation, this means that the individual has completed all terms of the probation and also has not committed subsequent crimes during this probation period.
Second, what are the benefits of an expungement? What does it really do? As the Penal Code states, the expungement dismisses the penalties and disabilities associated with a criminal offense. Therefore, the individual will no longer have to disclose to an employer that they have a criminal record (unless the employer is a government entity who will have access to the record anyway). The individual’s court record will show the case (that was expunged) was dismissed. Also, if the individual is called upon as a witness in a trial, an expungement means that the conviction cannot be used against the credibility of the individual.
Third, are there limitations to expungement and does it mean a criminal record is completely erased? Yes, there are limitations, one of them being that the record is not in fact erased. For example, California and federal records will still show that the individual had a conviction but then was dismissed per Penal Code 1203.4. Moreover, it will also not seal the case from the public (unless certain parts are done so per other limitations). Despite these limitations, it is still in some people’s best interests to petition for an expungement. The steps include filing a Petition for Relief and paying the court fees for the petition. Other paperwork and documentation may be required.