Once you’ve paid your debt to society with fines, a jail sentence, or successfully completing probation, it is time to clean up your criminal record. Expungement of your criminal record can help you in many areas of your life, such as getting jobs, achieving an education, obtaining professional licensure and perhaps most importantly, gaining peace of mind.

California has made big changes in its expungement laws as of January 1, 2008. In the past, you could have a criminal conviction such as DUI, hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter or evading a police officer expunged merely by fulfilling the requirements of your sentence and probation.

California’s new law requires that you have a formal court hearing regarding your expungement, and the presiding judge has complete discretion over whether your criminal conviction is removed from your record or remains as written.

The hearing may require calling witnesses, filing legal declarations, preparing additional information for the court about you and your particular circumstances, and outlining how your good conduct and reform justify expunging your conviction.

There are a few exceptions: You still must disclose the conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery. However, the benefits of obtaining this relief far outweigh the exceptions.

However, despite the new requirements, it is still entirely possible to have your California criminal conviction expunged. Once you do so, you can truthfully assert that you were never convicted of that offense.

Clearing your criminal record will depend upon several factors, in order for you to even qualify for expungement:

  • At least 1 year must have passed since your conviction
  • You must have no intervening arrests; a clean record
  • All aspects of sentencing and punishment for your previous conviction must have been served and carried out

Expungement may be approved or denied depending upon the severity and type of your conviction, your age at the time (whether you were a minor or adult) and whether you were imprisoned or placed on probation.

A juvenile record can be sealed through the juvenile court after a successful hearing. Once this has been done, the offense shall be deemed never to have occurred. There are no exceptions to this type of sealing; it is as if the offense never happened and cannot be revisited.