Santa Rosa, California Expungement Forms & Processes: What to Know
Being charged with a crime in California can be a life-changing ordeal. With fines, possible jail time and countless court obligations, your personal and professional reputation can also take a hit as long as these charges remain on your record.
Thanks to allowances in California law, however, individuals with criminal records are allowed the chance to “clean their plate” through a process known as expungement. By simply filling out a few forms and consulting with an expert criminal defense attorney, you could be well on your way to having a clean record—and the peace of mind knowing that your past convictions can no longer be used against you.
The California Expungement Process
Contrary to popular belief, expungement does not “clean” your record, per se; instead, your guilty plea or conviction is withdrawn and replaced with a permanent not-guilty plea, which is subsequently dismissed. In the eyes of the law, this makes it appear as if the conviction never occurred in the first place.
Generally speaking, you can qualify for expungement in California if:
- You are not currently serving probation;
- You are not currently facing another criminal charge; and
If you received a felony charge that resulted in a prison sentence, you may not qualify for expungement. In addition, if your crime was for certain sexual offenses against, you may not qualify as well.
If you do meet the criteria, you must make sure that all court-ordered fees and restitution have been paid before you are able to apply for expungement.
Expunging a Felony Conviction
In California, felonies that qualify for expungement may also be eligible to first be reduced to a misdemeanor. These felonies are those that could have been charged as a misdemeanor—also known as a “wobbler.” A good way to see if your charge qualifies as a “wobbler” is to look at the language of the sentencing. If, for example, your crime is punishable by prison time or jail time, then it is very likely a wobbler that qualifies for expungement.
In order to expunge a wobbler felony, you must petition the court to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor, and then file for dismissal of the misdemeanor. This can be done by filing a petition under Pen. Code, § 17(b) (to get a felony reduced) and a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.4 (to get your charge dismissed).
Expunging a felony can only be done once your sentence(s) have been served. This includes any jail time in county prison, as well as any remaining term of probation you may have been ordered. If you are convicted of a felony, are still on probation but wish to have your felony expunged, you must also file a petition under Pen. Code, § 1203.3 to have your probation terminated early.
If you were ordered to serve time in state prison, you may be unable to have your felony expunged. If you served time in prison for a charge that is now eligible to be served in a local jail, you can seek expungement. Even if you are not eligible for expungement, you may be able to receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon, a court order declaring that you have been rehabilitated after a California state criminal conviction. A pardon received by the Governor, if your application is accepted, will restore your civil and political rights of citizenship to a similar degree that expungement would in many cases.
Expunging a Misdemeanor
As outlined in Pen. Code, § 1203.4, expunging a misdemeanor is as simple as submitting a petition to have your charges dismissed. By obtaining a copy of your criminal record and filling out the required forms, you may petition the court to dismiss your charges. This process is very similar to that of expunging felonies in that you must have served out any sentenced probation (or have it terminated early) in order to be eligible for expungement.
California Expungement Forms
There are three primary forms used by the court to expunge convictions from your record in California. These must be completed and delivered to the county in which you have received your conviction, and include:
*Please note that Form MC-031 may not be required in all cases.
These forms may be completed and submitted independently (i.e. without the assistance of a lawyer), but it is recommended to retain an experienced California expungement attorney to assist you with ensuring that all of your paperwork has been sufficiently completed and delivered to the required parties. This ensures that you have all of your bases covered and that the expungement process concludes as quickly as possible—typically within 12-16 weeks.
Contact an Experienced California Expungement Attorney
If you are seeking expungement for a felony or misdemeanor charge in California, you may require legal assistance along the way. The process for expungement in California is deceptively simple, and you may be required to fill out additional forms along the way. Without an insider knowledge of how criminal courts operate, this may put you at a disadvantage for getting your life back on track.
With expert, personalized attention put into each case we take on, we are confident in our ability to help you. If you have any questions about expungement in California or believe that your record is eligible for this process, contact The Law Office of Amy Chapman today to schedule a free consultation.