Can you clear your criminal record?
Yes you can, although as with any legal matter, there are rules, exceptions, and limitations when it comes to removing a misdemeanor or felony from your criminal record.
Clearing your criminal record is commonly referred to as an “expungement” of your criminal record. In California, the law that allows an expungement of your criminal record is California Penal Code 1203.4.
As expungement lawyers, my office has handled numerous expungement motions on behalf of clients throughout Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.
Below are common questions I get from people with a criminal background interested in clearing their criminal record.
Can You Clear Your Criminal Record if You Have a Felony Conviction?
A felony conviction can be expunged from your background, but there are a couple of exceptions:
- No Prison Time – You cannot expunge a felony conviction if you served time in State Prison. You can still expunge a felony conviction if you served time in County Jail, however.
- Certain Convictions Expressly Prohibited – PC 1203.4(b) expressly prohibits the expungement of certain types of offenses. The types of offenses named under that section are mostly egregious sex crimes, such as sex with a minor.
As long as you don’t fall into one of the exceptions under Penal Code 1203.4, you are still eligible for a felony expungement and all of its benefits to the same extent as you would be for a misdemeanor offense.
Can You Clear Your Criminal Record if You Are Still on Probation?
No. In order to be eligible to bring an expungement motion before the Court, PC 1203.4 requires all of the following:
- You are no longer on probation – meaning, you either completed probation or had it terminated early pursuant to Penal Code 1203.3.
- You are not currently charged with any offense.
- You are not currently serving a sentence for any offense.
As long as you meet the above requirements, you are eligible to bring an expungement motion.
If you are still on probation and need to obtain an expungement, you may be eligible for early termination of probation.
Can You Clear Your Criminal Record Simply Because You’re Eligible?
The answer to this question is – sometimes.
For example, let’s say you are seeking a DUI expungement in order to remove a DUI conviction from your criminal record, and let’s also assume you meet all of the above criteria which make you eligible to petition the court to clear your criminal record.
There is still one final hurdle you must cross in order to get your motion granted, and it concerns the issue of probation.
In the case were you were required to be on probation as a result of your offense:
- if you did not violate probation while serving it (“violating probation” simply means you did not comply with the court’s requirements during your probationary period, e.g. you didn’t pay your fines on time, you didn’t complete your assigned classes, you picked up another offense, etc.) then the Court must grant your petition for expungement;
- if you did violate your probation, then the court retains discretion to grant or deny your motion.
If the court retains discretion to grant or deny your motion, the court will consider facts that might convince the court to expunge your record.
In the rare case where you were not given probation after being convicted of a crime (this usually applies to low grade misdemeanor offenses and/or infraction offenses), you are eligible for expungement after one year has passed from the date of the conviction as long as you did not pick up any new offenses during that year.
Can You Clear Your Criminal Record without an Attorney?
Yes you can – although, it is not always advised.
Taking your expungement motion from start to finish takes a bit of know-how and experience. You can muscle your way through it on your own in some cases, but if you forget a step here or there, have the law incorrect, or have overlooked another detail, your motion could be prejudicially denied against.
As an expungement attorney experienced with bringing these motions throughout LA, OC, and San Diego, I can handle your case for you from A-Z and can ensure your motion is filed timely and that every detail is covered to ensure maximum potential for success.
For help with your motion, please contact me personally for a free consultation here: