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How to know if you qualify for an expungement

Being convicted of a crime may seem like the end of your life. You are likely worried it will prevent you from getting a good job or finding a nice place to live. In California, those convicted of a misdemeanor or certain felonies could be eligible for record expungement.

What is expungement?

An expungement vacates your previous conviction and dismisses your case. The court essentially reopens the case and allows you to plead not guilty. The offense is not completely erased from your criminal record, but the record reflects the case was dismissed.

Who is eligible?

There are certain crimes that cannot be expunged from your record. For example, certain sex crimes are ineligible for expungement. You also cannot pursue expungement if you have not completed your probation, are currently being prosecuted for another offense, or were sentenced to state prison.

You may be eligible if you were convicted of a misdemeanor of felony and received probation. According to the Superior Court of California in the County of Santa Clara, you must have completed your probation, followed any court orders, and not be facing new charges to qualify. Even if you were convicted of a misdemeanor and denied probation, you may be eligible for expungement. When you were sent to county jail for a felony, you might also qualify for expungement. Anyone who was convicted of a marijuana-related offense prior to legalization can file for expungement under proposition 64. Proposition 64 legalized marijuana for adult use in California.

What does that mean for your future?

Getting your record expunged means your conviction will not show up in most background checks. Private employers performing background checks likely will not find your conviction. This is also true for most landlords and most parties conducting credit checks. However, court files may still exist after an expungement. If someone knows how to search for court documents, he or she may find your file.

The good news is if a potential employer asks you if you have been convicted of a crime, you can say no in most cases. Your conviction was dismissed, so legally the conviction no longer exists. The exception would be if you are applying for a government job, certain jobs with government-issued licenses, or security jobs. These agencies will have access to court records, so you must be truthful with them.

Pursuing an expungement is a good option for many Californians convicted of misdemeanors or felonies. It may allow you to pursue the future you want, without a criminal conviction to hold you back.

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