California state Senate is considering a bill to expand the types of criminal convictions that may be expunged to include "realignment crimes" — non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual offenses. Under the proposed bill, an ex-con sentenced under realignment would complete the jail sentence, any mandatory supervision and wait two years before applying for expungement. The purpose of the bill is to enhance job access to ex-convicts who are facing employment discrimination.
What is expungement?
California law states that a person may expunge a criminal record of any misdemeanors or certain felonies if probation was successfully completed and the person is not currently charged with another criminal offense or serving probation for another criminal offense.
What does expungement do?
Expungement does not erase a conviction, but changes the listing on criminal record to “dismissed.” This enables a person to answer "no" to the questions about past criminal convictions. If you plead guilty, expungement changes the plea to "not guilty." In addition, the expungement is issued to the U.S. Department of Justice. Expungement also improves a credit rating, advances housing and loan applications, and restores student loan eligibility.
The limits of expungement
If you are charged with an additional crime in the future, however, the expunged conviction may be used as a prior conviction to increase your sentence. Expungement does not erase your record. If you lost your rights to possess a firearm because of your conviction, expunging your record does not help. Similarly, expunging a record does not help you regain your driver's license. Sex offenders are obligated to register even after a crime has been expunged.
Employers may not ask
California law prohibits an employer from asking about an arrest or detention that did not end in a conviction. If an employer learns of such information, the employer may not allow it to affect the hiring process. Expungement enables job applications to truthfully answer "no" to questions about convictions.
If you want a clean slate from your criminal past, contact an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the expungement process.