My name is Attorney Paul Denni and I frequently get asked whether a Los Angeles traffic ticket can get expunged, probably because I handle the following legal matters:
There are two problems with the question “Can you expunge a Los Angeles traffic ticket?”:
- Most people don’t really understand what an expungement is so it may not even be a legal remedy you need or want; and
- A “traffic ticket” can refer to several different types of legal situations, each with their own set of legal consequences.
Explanation of an Expungement
It’s first important to understand what a Los Angles expungement is because then you’ll know whether you actually need or want an expungement in the first place.
An expungement in California has it’s origin in Penal Code 1203.4, which allows a criminal conviction to be dismissed from your criminal record in order to release you of “all penalties and liabilities of the offense.”
The language in Penal Code 1203.4 is a bit misleading, in that, you aren’t truly released of ALL penalties and liabilities of the offense, namely:
- If the court grants you an expungement, the conviction is dismissed, but not erased from your record; and
- If you are charged with an offense for which you are a repeat offender (you have a prior conviction for the same offense), even an expunged conviction is still considered a “prior” conviction for up to 10 years and can enhance the punishment on your current offense.
So why would you want an expungement if it’s not erased from your record?
As mentioned above, if you get your conviction expunged, it will be dismissed but not erased from your record. What this means is that an expungement won’t hide your record or seal it. But it will amend your record to literally read “dismissed pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4.”
The benefit of an expungement is that an employer cannot use an expunged conviction to discriminate against you, because you are explicitly protected from employment discrimination for an expunged conviction under California Labor code 432.7.
An employer cannot deny you employment, fire you, or even refuse you an advancement or promotion opportunity based on a conviction that has been expunged.
An employer or potential employer can’t even ask you about a conviction that has been dismissed under Penal Code 1203.4. Be aware, however, of the three exceptions to this don’t ask rule:
- You are applying for licensure by a State agency (such as to be a nurse, lawyer, contractor, etc.). This is the most common exception.
- You are contracting with the California State Lottery Commission.
- You are applying for public office.
Other than that, an employer or potential employer has no right to know about it, so you can truthfully state on an application or in an interview that you don’t have a felony or misdemeanor conviction (assuming it’s been expunged under PC 1203.4).
So…can a traffic ticket be expunged?
The answer, as with most legal questions, is: it depends.
“Traffic ticket” is a vague label that can apply to several different types of offenses:
- infractions – punishable by fines only,
- misdemeanors – punishable by fines and/ or jail time, and
- felonies – punishable by fines, jail and/ or prison time.
A traffic ticket can be expunged whether it falls into any of the three categories above (infraction, misdemeanor, or felony), but not every type of offense can be expunged.
For example, generally speaking a DUI can be expunged – whether you were convicted of a DUI as a misdemeanor or a felony (there are no DUIs filed as infractions).
However, if you were convicted of a DUI as a felony and served time in prison, this would exclude you from expungement eligibility. Prison time will always exclude you from expungement eligibility for that offense.
There are other types of matters that cannot be expunged, but these are usually non-traffic matters such as sex crimes involving minors.
Should I Try to Get My Traffic Ticket Expunged?
As discussed above, the main benefit of an expungement is for employment purposes. Although infractions can be expunged, there is normally no need to expunge an infraction because employers are usually only concerned with whether you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony – “criminal” offenses.
An employer is usually only concerned with whether you have an infraction on your record when:
- it’s a petty theft infraction (petty theft goes to your credibility for honesty and trustworthiness as an employee), or
- it’s a moving violation that has caused points to go on your DMV record.
In the case of the petty theft infraction, it makes sense to expunge it, even if it’s an infraction, due to the non-disclosure and non-discrimination rules discussed above that will help you find meaningful employment.
However, in the case of traffic tickets that are moving violations that have caused points to go on your DMV record, an expungement will not clear your DMV record nor will it remove points from your DMV record.
Unfortunately, when you get a point on your DMV record, there is no way to remove it (unless you timely requested a DMV hearing to prove the court wrongly reported the conviction on your record).
So the short answer is: most traffic tickets can be expunged, but subject to other rules of expungement. Also, although most traffic tickets can be expunged, in the case where they cause points on your DMV record (moving violations), an expungement won’t delete or amend your DMV record or remove the points from your DMV record.
Need some help with your traffic ticket or expungement? You can contact me personally for a free consultation here: