When you are arrested for a crime in California, the record of your arrest is public information. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the conviction is also a matter of public record.
Under California law, it is illegal for potential employers to ask about a prior criminal conviction unless they have already made a conditional offer of employment. This is because California has a “Ban the Box” law, known as the California Fair Chance Act, that was passed in 2017. Of course, even though it is illegal for potential employers to ask about prior convictions, many of them do. Your criminal history can still be used against you for many other reasons (schools, landlords, insurance companies, etc.).
Fortunately, California law also provides remedies for cleaning up your misdemeanor record. The most common remedy is a “Petition for Dismissal” pursuant to Penal Code Section 1203.4 or 1203.4a. This is what many people refer to as an “expungement”, even though that term is not used in California law. If you are granted relief under 1203.4 or 1203.4a, the Judge will allow you to withdraw your “guilty” or “no contest” plea, replace it with a “not guilty” plea, and dismiss the case. This will not erase the conviction from your record but, the words "conviction dismissed" will appear with the record.
For almost all purposes, a successful Petition for Dismissal will have the same effect as if the case were dismissed without you ever being convicted in the first place. There are some exceptions (applying for public office, licensing, contracting with the California State Lottery, etc.), but for most situations, the conviction would be deemed to not have occurred.
For most misdemeanor cases, once you have successfully completed probation (or it has been one year since you were sentenced without probation), you are entitled to have a Petition for Dismissal granted. Pursuant to a recent California law (AB 1950), probation in most misdemeanor cases is limited to one year. Therefore, for most misdemeanor offenses, you can have your record cleaned one year after you are convicted.
Keep in mind that some convictions, such as a conviction for a DUI, are "priorable," and can be used as prior convictions to enhance a sentence in a future case.
The Crawford Law Firm has skilled criminal defense attorneys that can help with keeping your record clean. Call us today for a free consultation!