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Santa Rosa Expungement Lawyer

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In This Article

Criminal Record Expungements

You may have made mistakes in the past that resulted in a criminal conviction, but now you’ve turned your life around and want to clean your criminal record for a fresh start. In the age when information is so readily available to so many people, you need to take advantage of the laws that are in place to clear up your criminal history. A clean record can help your chances of obtaining employment, credit, housing, and becoming a citizen.

Expungement is a common term for the dismissal of a case after probation or after a period of time has elapsed. However, the term expungement is misleading because relief under Penal Code section 1203.4 does not expunge or seal your court record, but it will dismiss your case. If the judge grants your 1203.4 dismissals, you can legally say in most circumstances that you have never been convicted of that crime.

What Are the Benefits of Expungement?

A conviction on your criminal record can lead to major life difficulties, such as trouble finding housing or employment. Expungement offers numerous benefits, making it easier to achieve a fresh start and improving your prospects for the future.

An expungement can significantly improve your opportunities in various aspects of your life, including housing and employment. People with criminal records often struggle to find employment when their conviction turns up in a pre-employment background check, as many employers are hesitant to hire anyone with a criminal record. An expungement makes it much easier to secure employment and move on with your life.

A criminal record can also cause problems when looking for housing. Some landlords also conduct background checks and may avoid taking on a tenant with a criminal record. Clearing the conviction from your record and having it replaced with a dismissed case can make it much easier to rent an apartment or house.

The Expungement Process in California

If you are planning to file for expungement, you may be wondering what the timeline will look like. Here is an overview of the different steps of the expungement process in California.

Consider Hiring an Attorney

Although you are free to apply for expungement on your own, it is usually best to have legal guidance from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can guide you through the process and help you ensure that all requirements are met so that your application is accepted.

Fill Out Forms and File for Expungement

The expungement process begins by completing all requisite forms. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you will need to file the Petition to Dismiss a Misdemeanor and provide a blank Order for the judge to sign. For a felony, you can also make a request to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor under PC § 17(b)(3). 

These forms should be filed at the courthouse where the original conviction was issued. The court will then schedule a hearing upon receipt of the completed petition.

Preparing for the Hearing

You should spend some time preparing for your expungement hearing with your lawyer. You may want to have prepared statements in defense of the petition. Your lawyer will also help you prepare for potential objections raised by the District Attorney’s Office. This legal guidance will help ensure that you are prepared to handle the hearing proceedings with confidence.

The Expungement Hearing

The expungement hearing is held before a judge, who will consider various factors when deciding whether to approve the request. Your lawyer will represent you during this hearing but you may also need to answer some questions from the judge.

Post-Hearing Resolution

If the court decides to grant the petition, you will receive a signed order from the California Superior Court Judge who presided over your case, stating that the case has been dismissed. While the court record remains visible unless sealed by request, you will be free from the obligation to disclose your conviction history in various contexts, such as applying for a job or housing.

If your petition is denied, you have the right to ask the judge for a reason and what you can do to reapply successfully. 

Seal or Destroy Your Records

You may explore the possibility of sealing or destroying your records under certain circumstances. This option is available if you were wrongly arrested, never charged, had your case dismissed, or were acquitted by a journey. You may also apply to seal your records for juvenile court cases older than five years. 

Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation

Unlike expungement, a Certificate of Rehabilitation acts as a step to direct pardon. While it does not seal or destroy the records or change the conviction’s status, a Certification of Rehabilitation can remove certain restrictions, particularly for those convicted of sexual offenses.

Pursue a Direct Pardon from the Governor

If you do not qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or expungement, you may seek a direct pardon from the governor of California. Similar to a Certificate of Rehabilitation, a direct pardon eliminates conviction penalties and restores certain rights. However, it does not expunge the conviction or seal records. You must wait at least ten years after completing your sentence to apply for a pardon. To do so, you must file an Application for Gubernatorial Pardon with the Governor’s Office.

How Long Does an Expungement Take in California?

The timeline for the expungement process can vary depending on numerous factors, such as the county, the current court caseload, whether the conviction is a felony or misdemeanor, and whether there is a court hearing. In Sonoma County, the entire process can take anywhere from 30 days to 6 months.

New California Law Bans Discrimination Based on Expungement

California Labor Code § 432.7 bans discrimination against applicants for employment, hiring, promotion, or termination based on an expunged criminal case. Under this law, employers are prohibited from requesting information regarding expunged convictions. If an employer violates this law, they could be held liable for monetary damages. 

Do You Need A Lawyer To Petition For An Expungement Or A 1203.4 Dismissal?

Petitions and court hearings for 1203.4 dismissals can be complicated and time-consuming. You must submit the proper paperwork to the appropriate parties. The judge could ask the district attorney and the probation department to respond with their own written motions, and the judge may want to hear oral arguments. Don’t take a chance on filing the wrong paperwork in the wrong place or being forced to debate against a skilled prosecutor in court. It is most certainly in your best interest to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to do this work for you. The Law Office of Amy Chapman can prepare and file all of the necessary paperwork and appear on your behalf so that your life is not interrupted any further.

Eligibility For A 1203.4 Dismissal In Santa Rosa

You are eligible for a 1203.4 dismissal if you are not serving a sentence for any other offense and are not on probation or currently being charged with any other criminal offenses or infractions. You must also be sure that you have paid off all of the fines, fees, and restitution that are involved with your case before you ask for an expungement. Many felony and misdemeanor offenses are eligible, but certain serious sex offense convictions are not eligible for dismissal under this law. If you are granted a 1203.4 dismissal, the case can still be used against you in future criminal proceedings.

Sealing of Juvenile Records

If you were arrested or cited as a minor, you can get those records sealed if juvenile court proceedings were dismissed or never filed. After you turn 18, or if five years have passed since your last arrest or discharge from probation, you can petition to seal juvenile court records. Your records will NOT be automatically sealed after you turn 18. You must file a petition with the court in order to seal your juvenile record.

To be eligible, you must not have been convicted of any crime of moral turpitude later or have any civil case pending that stemmed from your juvenile case. You also cannot have your juvenile court records sealed if you have a felony conviction from any kind of criminal cases that occurred after the age of 14. If the court orders your records sealed, Welfare and Institutions Code 781(a) specifically says, “the proceedings in the case shall be deemed never to have occurred.”

If your juvenile records are sealed, they will be completely destroyed five years later. If you graduated from the Department of Juvenile Justice (formerly known as the California Youth Authority), your case was automatically dismissed at the time of your graduation. However, if you do not petition to have your records sealed, they will not be destroyed until you turn 38.

After an Expungement Can I Always Say That I Have No Record?

Once your record is expunged, you can, in most cases, answer, “No” when asked if you have a criminal record. This right is supported by the fact that the California Code of Regulations does not allow private sector employers to ask you if you were ever convicted of a misdemeanor that was subsequently expunged. 

However, your conviction is still discoverable if you apply for a government job or a job that requires one or more of the following:

  • A security clearance
  • A government-issued license, permit, or certificate

In these cases, you should disclose both the conviction and the expungement. Depending on the employer, it may be seen as evidence of rehabilitation. A Sonoma County expungement lawyer will explain the effect of an expungement on your job search.

Can My Felony Conviction Be Expunged?

Yes. Felonies that resulted in probation, but not prison time, can be expunged, and some felonies are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors under California Penal Code section 17(b). A felony reduced to a misdemeanor is considered a misdemeanor for all purposes, and in some cases, that includes the right to own a gun.

If you meet all of the following criteria, you may be eligible to request that your felony record be expunged:

  • You were convicted in a California Superior Court (as opposed to a federal court)
  • Your conviction must have been at least a year ago if you didn’t receive probation
  • There are no new criminal charges pending against you
  • You are not currently serving a sentence for a criminal conviction
  • Your sentence was not served in a California state prison
  • You completed your probation or obtained an early termination of probation
  • You do not owe any unpaid court fines
  • Your sentence has been completed, including community service or restitution

The court has some discretion to expunge your record even if you do not meet all of the criteria above. A Sonoma County expungement attorney can help you pursue the fresh start you need.

Aren’t Older Misdemeanors Automatically Expunged?


The court may purge (destroy) misdemeanor cases that are older than five years, depending on the charges, but this doesn’t mean that the conviction disappears from your record. You will still need to obtain an expungement, although you’ll need to obtain a copy of your criminal history report from the Department of Justice if the original court file is gone.

For example, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor DUI five years ago and you want to prevent it from impacting your job prospects, a Sonoma County DUI attorney at the Law Office of Amy Chapman can guide you through the process of expunging your record.

Why Should I Hire a Sonoma County Expungement Lawyer?

While you can handle your own expungement case, you shouldn’t, even if you’re sure that you qualify. For example:

  • The laws governing expungement can be difficult to understand.
  • Some documents you will need to present your case can be hard to obtain.
  • Even if you qualify, the court can still deny your expungement. Attorney Amy Chapman can help you present your specific reasons why you deserve and need this fresh start. 

An expungement can give you access to opportunities and benefits obstructed by your criminal record. A Sonoma County expungement attorney will give you the best chance of a successful conclusion to your case.

Speak With A Santa Rosa Expungement Attorney

If you’re interested in expunging your arrest records and avoiding some of the adverse consequences a criminal conviction can have, or if you would like more general information about how to request expungement for prior convictions in California, call the Law Office of Amy Chapman at (888) 570-3024 or contact the office online for a confidential and free consultation. I’ll be happy to go over the details of your California criminal record and offer my best legal advice on how to proceed with the record expungement process.

Law Office of Amy Chapman

Santa Rosa Criminal Defense Lawyer

703 2nd Street

Suite 407

Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Phone: (707) 636-3207

Monday - Friday, 8am - 5pm

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