If you have a misdemeanor record, or think you may have one, this can cause fear and anxiety – particularly when you are applying for an educational or employment opportunity.
The good news is that you may be eligible for an expungement to clear your misdemeanor record.
As a California record clearing attorney, I’ve been fortunate to be able to help my clients clear their past criminal record to remove the harmful effects a criminal record may have on the future of their finances, family, and future.
In this post I discuss how to find out for certain whether you have a misdemeanor record, the effect a criminal record may have on your future, and how to get your misdemeanor record expunged.
How to Find Your Misdemeanor Record
In order to discover whether you have a misdemeanor record, you must first obtain your “RAP” sheet from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“RAP” stands for “Record of Arrests and Prosecutions,” and will disclose all of your past arrests and criminal convictions.
In order to obtain your RAP sheet, you must undergo a Live Scan. A Live Scan is a scan of your fingerprints in a special machine that links to the Department of Justice, and will disclose any arrests or convictions.
To receive a Live Scan and discover your misdemeanor record, most police departments offer a Live Scan service. Also, you can find an independent Live Scan franchisee here.
What to Do if You Discover You Have a Misdemeanor Record
After obtaining your RAP sheet, you may discover you have a misdemeanor record.
A misdemeanor record can be disheartening because it will be discovered by current or potential employers conducting a background check.
An employer can use information from your criminal background against you to terminate your employment or to make a decision not to hire you in the first place.
This can feel extremely unfair, especially when your criminal conviction occurred long ago under far different circumstances when you were a very different person.
Thankfully, California law recognizes the harmful effect a misdemeanor record can have on your future. Penal Code 1203.4 is a California law that allows you to dismiss or “expunge” your criminal record.
If you discover you have a misdemeanor conviction on your RAP sheet, you can petition the court personally or through your attorney to dismiss that conviction from your record.
How to File an Expungement Motion to Clear Your Misdemeanor Record
What follows is an overview of the process for expunging your misdemeanor record.
#1 Draft and File Your Motion
A “motion” is a formal document filed with the court that requests the judge to grant certain legal relief. In the case of an expungement motion, you are asking the judge to dismiss a conviction from your criminal record pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4.
Unfortunately, there is no uniform standard for filing a motion in courts throughout California – every court will have specific, local rules they want you to follow in terms of:
- what type of paper to use;
- what type of form to use (if any);
- written argument;
- how to serve the motion on the prosecutorial agency to give them legal notice of your motion;
- filing fees; and
- in-court procedure.
It is important to intimately acquaint yourself with all of the local court rules; otherwise – your motion may be rejected and cause delay or completely bar you from filing your motion again.
If you are concerned about your ability to follow detailed instructions pertaining to all aspects of your case, you should hire an expungement attorney to help you file your motion.
#2 Appear in Court to Argue Your Motion (Sometimes)
Depending on the type of case, and the specific court your conviction is in, a court appearance may be optional or mandatory.
The in-person court appearance is an opportunity for you to present your case to the judge in open court before the public. The prosecutorial agency (the District Attorney, City Attorney, etc.) will be present in court and will likely argue against your case.
If you are not comfortable appearing in court, you should have an experienced expungement attorney attend for you or alongside you in order to enhance your chances of persuading the court to rule in your favor.
You can contact me below if you’d like assistance.
#3 Understand the Effect of a Successful Expungement Motion
If the court grants your motion, congratulations!
Your criminal record will then be updated by the criminal court clerk with the Department of Justice.
Many are confused about the effect of a successful expungement motion, so let me set the record straight (no pun intended!).
It Won’t Seal Your Record, it will Amend it
An expungement does not seal or hide your criminal record from the eyes of someone conducting a criminal background check. What it does do is amend your record to reflect the charges have been dismissed “pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4”).
So what’s the value of getting an expungement if employers can still see your misdemeanor record?
The value lies in what an employer is allowed to do with your misdemeanor record, if discovered: under California Labor Code 432.7, an employer cannot use an expunged conviction to take any adverse action against you.
This means your old conviction can no longer affect your employment negatively. In fact, in most cases you do not even have to disclose an expunged conviction, unless (3 exceptions when you must disclose an expunged conviction):
- You are applying for licensure by the State of California (nurse, teacher, accountant, contractor, etc.);
- You are applying for public office; or
- You are contracting with the California State Lottery Commission.
The non-disclosure benefit is extremely valuable when you are applying for a new job.
What to Do Next
Once you have found your criminal record and have determined you need to expunge it from your past, you can try to handle it yourself, or you can hire a lawyer to take care of it for you.
If you are interested in hiring a lawyer, I provide a free consultation for those interested in my services. You can contact me by clicking below.