As an expungement attorney practicing in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego, I’ve handled thousands of expungement motions on behalf of my clients with criminal convictions in these regions.
Thus, I’ve become well-acquainted with expungement law in California, and have specific familiarity with local court protocol throughout Southern California.
The point of this post is to help you determine whether it is worth it to hire an expungement attorney to help you clear your criminal record, or whether this is a legal matter better handled without an attorney. Below are a few questions for you to consider when deciding whether to hire an expungement attorney.
What is the Cost of an Expungement Attorney?
Expungement attorneys advertise quite a range in price for expungement and record clearing services. I’ve seen quotes as low as $200, and as high as $5,000.
At least part of the reason for such a disparity in price for record clearing services is due to the lack of standardization of “record clearing” legal services – which can include many different types of services requiring varying levels of time and expertise on the part of the expungement attorney.
Some record clearing services are offered by non-attorneys, and offer little more than filling in a form for you.
Our record clearing services have always been “A-Z” legal services, include drafting and filing your motion, appearing in court, and oral argument on your behalf. (You can reach me below for a free consultation and quote on your case.)
The point is that many different lawyers, and in some cases non-lawyers, will offer varying types of record clearing services, so it’s important to know exactly what is included with the services being offered.
How Legally Savvy are You?
Many of our clients end up hiring us after first attempting to get an expungement on their own. You should not take it personally that you don’t end up knowing as much as you think you know – after all, life is a learning process.
However, if you want to save yourself the headache in requesting the court to grant relief you are ineligible to receive, you need to educate yourself about expungement law before blindly filing a motion and wasting the court’s time.
An expungement in California has it’s basis in California Penal Code 1203.4. This section of law allows a dismissal of a past criminal conviction, as long as certain criteria are met.
This conviction dismissal is commonly referred to in California as an “expungement.”
Not Eligible for Expungement as a Matter of Law
Certain scenarios will make you ineligible for a record expungement in California. such as when:
- you served time in State prison, you are ineligible for a felony expungement; or
- you you were convicted of any offense expressly prohibited by Penal Code 1203.4.
If you fall under one of the scenarios above, you should not waste your time filing an expungement motion, because the court will have to deny your request for relief as a matter of law.
Be mindful, however, that many felonies can still be expunged – you just can’t get a felony expungement if you served time in prison.
Other Obstacles to Getting Your Expungement Motion Granted
The Judge May Deny Your Motion
Even when the law doesn’t expressly prohibit your eligibility for expungement, in some cases the judge still has discretion to deny your motion.
In the case where you were found in violation of probation on the offense you are trying to expunge, the judge can grant or deny your expungement motion “in the interests of justice.” In this case, it is your job to convince the court it is in the interests of justice to grant your request.
You Are Ineligible Due to Open or Pending Cases
You cannot expunge a conviction in California if you have any open or pending cases:
- if you’re charged with an offense;
- if you’re on probation for an offense; or
- if you’re serving a sentence for any offense,
then you cannot get an expungement granted until you are off of probation, have finished serving your sentence, etc.
The good news is you may be eligible for early termination of probation in order to become eligible for expungement.
Your Motion Will Be Rejected if Filed Incorrectly
Every court has its own rules about how to properly ask the court for an expungement of your conviction. Even though California law is the same throughout the state, how this law is applied and implemented varies slightly from county to county and from court to court.
In other words, you have to be intimately familiar with local court rules and procedure in order to bring your motion in front of the judge. If you don’t, your motion may be denied or significantly delayed.
Generally speaking, you must:
- draft your motion (some courts require their specific forms and/ or format);
- serve your motion on the opposing party (the prosecution) and in some cases on probation, in a timely manner required by law;
- file your motion with the court and calendar a court date (in some cases); and
- argue your motion and convince the judge to grant it, against opposition by the prosecution and/ or probation (in some cases).
If you are already feeling a bit overwhelmed, you may want to contact an expungement attorney for assistance (click below to reach me for a free consultation).
What is the Value of Your Time?
Even if you could do all of the above, the question is – do you want to?
As an expungement attorney, there are certain things I hire others to help me out with, either because I don’t have the time or the interest in completing them myself, or because the value of my time is better spent working on something else.
Things like: my taxes, my dental work, and the grocery store (so I don’t have to hunt my own food to eat).
In the same way, an expungement attorney knowledgeable in his field can deal with the hassle for you of getting your case expunged while you spend your time and expertise on your own work, or on other things more interesting to you.
When you consider the time it may take you to try and handle this matter on your own, it may be wiser to handle a competent lawyer to knock it out for you.
Hire an Expungement Attorney
If, after reading the above, you have decided you want to hire an expungement attorney, or need more questions answered first – please click the button below for a free consultation with me personally.
If you’ve decided you’re ready to tackle this without the aid of an expungement attorney, I wish you good luck and godspeed, and I hope you found this post informative.