Is It Possible to Expunge a Felony in California?

Expungement under California law is a legal process that offers relief to individuals convicted of a crime. In simple terms, to expunge a conviction means that it is set aside and dismissed. However, it's crucial to understand that expungement does not erase the conviction; the record is not removed, sealed, or destroyed. Instead, the conviction is reclassified in the legal records as dismissed, which can significantly change how the public and various institutions perceive it.

In California, expunging a felony is possible under specific circumstances. This critical process symbolizes a fresh start, allowing individuals to move past their convictions. Expungement can open doors that were previously closed due to a criminal record. For instance, it can enhance one's chances in job applications, housing opportunities, and educational pursuits, fostering personal and professional rehabilitation. Essentially, it helps individuals reintegrate into society as productive members.

Navigating the path to expungement can be complex and demands a thorough understanding of California’s legal landscape. A knowledgeable defense attorney can guide you through the intricate process, verifying that qualification criteria are met and satisfying legal requirements.

If you or someone you know is seeking to expunge a felony in Los Angeles, call Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160 or contact us online.

Eligibility Criteria for Expunging a Felony

Expungement eligibility for felony convictions is governed by specific legal requirements that must be understood and met.

Generally, to be eligible for a felony expungement, you must fulfill the following conditions:

  • Completion of sentence. You must complete all terms of your sentence. This requirement includes fulfilling jail time, fines, restitution, mandatory programs, or community service.
  • No pending charges. You should not have any open criminal cases or charges.
  • Probation or parole status. You must not be serving probation or parole. If you are still on probation, you must petition the court for early termination before seeking expungement.

Specific Conditions for Felony Convictions

Depending on the circumstances of your conviction and sentence, you must also meet specific conditions based on your situation.

The qualifying criteria include the following:

  • Probation and county jail sentences. If you were sentenced to probation and completed all terms, the court is generally required to grant expungement. However, the court decides whether to grant your request if you do not satisfy the terms.
  • County jail under California Penal Code § 1170(h)(5). If you were sentenced to county jail and served mandatory supervision, you can request an expungement one year after completing your sentence. You must wait two years before submitting your request if you did not serve mandatory supervision. Approval is subject to the court’s discretion.
  • State prison sentence. You can request an expungement two years after completing a state prison sentence, provided the conviction was not for an offense requiring registration as a sex offender.
  • Fire camp participation. If you completed a fire camp program and were not convicted of certain serious offenses, you can seek expungement under California Penal Code § 1203.4b, with the court having the discretion to approve the petition.

Felony Conviction Relief Under Proposition 47

Proposition 47 provides a significant opportunity for relief by allowing certain felony theft and drug convictions to be reduced to misdemeanors.

To be eligible for this type of relief, before November 2014, you must have been convicted of either simple drug possession or theft offenses where the value involved was less than $950. Also, you must not have a conviction that requires sex offender registration or a “super strike” conviction involving serious or violent crimes.

The Process of Requesting a Felony Expungement

You must follow specific steps to request to have your felony conviction expunged.

Some of the steps you might take include the following:

  • Assess eligibility. Before beginning the process, confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria for expungement as detailed in California law.
  • Obtain criminal record. You will need a copy of your criminal record to complete the necessary forms accurately.
  • Complete the forms. Generally, you’ll need to fill out Form CR-180, Petition for Dismissal, and Form CR-181, Order for Dismissal. In cases where no statewide form is available or additional information is needed, you may need to draft a declaration or a written request explaining why expungement is justified.
  • Include supporting documents. It is beneficial to attach supporting documentation, such as evidence of rehabilitation, community service, or letters of recommendation, which can demonstrate to the court that granting your petition is in the interests of justice.
  • File the forms. Submit the completed forms and any supporting documents to the clerk of the court where the conviction occurred.

Why Legal Guidance Matters

The journey to expunge a felony in California culminates in numerous substantial benefits that can transform an individual’s life and prospects. Once a felony is expunged, it is legally dismissed. It won’t show up on background checks as a conviction, and, for the most part, you can legally say “no” if asked whether you have been convicted of that offense.

While expunging a felony may seem straightforward, it involves navigating complex legal procedures and meeting specific criteria that can vary depending on the details of the case. An attorney can help prepare and file the correct forms, reducing the chance of delays due to errors. They can also explain the nuances of the expungement process and clarify what it can and cannot do for you.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we help those in Los Angeles seek a fresh start. Please call us at (800) 462-7160 or connect online to discuss your options.