The consequences of a criminal conviction can endure for a lifetime, but California law allows many individuals with a criminal record to clear or expunge his or her convictions. (Penal Code sections 1203.4 and 1203.4a.) An expungement order reopens a case and permits a person to withdraw a plea of no contest or guilty, or to vacate a verdict of guilty. The court then orders the case dismissed. For most purposes, such as applications for employment, the expungement permits a person to truthfully state that he or she was not convicted of the offense. The expungement order, however, does not eliminate the conviction for purposes of applying for a professional license, answering a questionnaire for public office, or for contracting with the California State Lottery.
Many felony offenses can be reduced to misdemeanors after sentencing, after the completion of probation, or even years later. (Penal Code section 17.) Some felony drug offenses became misdemeanors under Proposition 47, enacted in November 2014. Individuals are entitled to petition the court pursuant to Proposition 47 to reclassify a previous felony conviction as a misdemeanor. Proposition 64, passed in 2016, also permits many individuals with felony convictions for marijuana cultivation, transportation, sales and possession for sale to have their offenses reduced to misdemeanors. A person on probation can petition a court for an early termination of probation. (Penal Code section 1203.3) For certain offenses, certificates of rehabilitation may be granted which eliminate some of the consequences of an older conviction. (Penal Code section 4852.01 et seq.)
Recent developments in the law have created uncertainty regarding the scope of sexual offender registration requirements. The uncertainty affects people who were able to terminate their registration requirements as well as individuals convicted of sex offenses who have never been ordered to register. (Penal Code section 290; See People v. Hofsheier (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1185; Johnson v. Department of Justice (2015) 60 Cal.4th 871__.)
When an arrest did not lead to a conviction, it is sometimes possible to petition for a finding of factual innocence and obtain a court order requiring law enforcement to seal and subsequently destroy arrest records (Penal Code Section 851.8.) Many juvenile records can also be sealed. (Welfare and Institutions Code section 781.)
The attorneys at Nolan Barton & Olmos are knowledgeable about all avenues of minimizing the impacts of past criminal convictions.