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Expungement of Criminal Records

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is the sealing or "cleaning" of criminal records. Did you know that many offenses can be expunged from your record with the help of a competent state expungement attorney? You will need to consult a lawyer in the state where the offense happened to find out what laws may be applicable to you. Some states require successful completion of any probation, community service, etc before expungement of criminal records can be considered, so it is vital that you finish any court-required treatment, rehab, counseling, and probationary period without incident.


Relief and Three Strikes

Expungement and relief have limits in terms of how they affect your criminal record within the state judicial system. If you fall under the three strikes rules, your DUI expungement is still counted as a "strike" where applicable. If your DUI conviction did not count as a strike originally, that status remains, but any DUI conviction considered a strike under the law remains so, regardless of the status of a felony expungement or relief. These are important details to remember. If you are in violation in the future, expungements do not protect you from your state three strikes law where applicable.


What About a Felony Conviction With Prison Time?

There are some cases where a California expungement, or other state felony expungement, is not available or applicable. The good news is that there are still avenues for help. You may be eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon, or a Governor's pardon. These actions greatly depend on the circumstances of your case, but they are avenues open to you if you can't apply for an expungement. One of the things that can deny you access to the expungement process is a sentence with no probation. If you must serve a term in state prison (as opposed to jail time and then probation), chances are you won't be able to apply for relief or expungement. Check with your lawyer for the most current information regarding your case.


Which Records Get Expunged?

It's easy to assume that if you are paying a lawyer to help you with a DUI expungement, a successful attempt will wipe out the records completely. Felony expungement can be a second chance for someone trying to learn from the mistakes of their past. So long as you don't place yourself back into the legal system for another offense, expungement can be a very good investment. But remember that it is intended to help you in your dealings with agencies outside the legal system.


Where Are Criminal Records Kept?

When trying to negotiate an expungement or a similar action in another state, you will learn that criminal records are tracked by your state criminal justice system, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. While the criminal justice system will always track criminal histories, the Department of Motor Vehicles does not track these records indefinitely. This is good news for people with DUI information on their record. Criminal record expungement may or may not help unfavorable information drop from the DMV system sooner. Check with your lawyer for the applicable state laws governing DUI expungement or other legal action. If you seek expungement, you will be required to file a petition to the court, which means retaining legal help.


Expungement or Relief?

Some states have a version of expungement called "relief." This is where an offender who has pleaded guilty may be forgiven by the court after serving a term of probation, or other requirements set by the court, the guilty verdict and subsequent punishments are "set aside" and dismissed by the court. California expungement laws are governed by this concept, as are other states. Regardless of which state you live in, the requirement for this kind of expungement is strict.

According to California penal code Section 1203.4, the offender must have "fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation, or has been discharged prior to the termination of the period of probation." In other words, this kind of DUI or other expungement is available only to those on their absolute best behavior and cooperation with the orders of the court.


Criminal Record Expungement and the Military

If you have a DUI charge on your record, you may have difficulty entering the military. Depending on the severity of the offense, the military recruiter may be willing to help you apply for waivers, vouch for your character, or other actions that can get you accepted as a member of the military in spite of your past.

A DUI expungement may not be an automatic bar to service, but lying to the recruiter based on the notion that the records are expunged will definitely get you barred from enlistment. The military has access to criminal records through background check services and can easily find that you have prior criminal action against you. Expungement is not a bar to service, as long as you are honest with the recruiter and tell them what you remember about the event in question to the best of your ability.


Expungement and Job Applications

Many state laws spell out the exact circumstances where disclosure is required by law. These can include applications for federal jobs, state lottery positions, and some civil service positions. Don't forget that you are entitled to disclose expunged offenses as such.

If you are unsure whether you will need to disclose your expungement, consult your lawyer, or you can look up the state law yourself.


Expungement: Is it Better to Wait?

Some lawyers will recommend that you attempt to have the sentence reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor before attempting to get an expungement. A dismissed, expunged, or otherwise set aside misdemeanor looks far better on your record than an expunged felony. Remember that state laws demand disclosure of these offenses in certain cases. The route to sentence reduction and eventual expungement is longer and more costly; in the end it is worth the effort.


Expungement, Probation, and Jail Time

Those seeking a California expungement need to fulfill the requirements of the court before they are allowed to apply for felony expungement, relief, or other action. In felony cases, these requirements often include jail time.
This does not automatically erase your chances of getting an expungement. A good DUI lawyer can instruct you as to the specifics, but many states will still allow relief to those who have fulfilled the jail time, probationary period and any other requirements. Remember any candidate for relief must do the jail time without incident for maximum consideration.