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How Long Do Misdemeanors Stay On Your Record?

Clearing Your California Misdemeanor Criminal Record

If you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor, you may worry it will follow you forever. This shows up on your criminal record and in background checks. It could impact many parts of your life, like your job, school, and even insurance rates.

How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record in California? Basically, it’s there for life. While that may sound tough, there are ways to improve the situation. You can clean your record or make it less public. Keep reading to learn more about dealing with misdemeanors on your record.

California Policy on Criminal Record Retention

Some states in the U.S. have laws that allow for automatic expungement for certain criminal convictions after a few years. In other words, the public criminal record of those convicted for those crimes is cleared.

However, this is different in California. The body in charge of retaining the criminal record of convicted persons is the California Department of Justice. According to the office of the Attorney General, the DOJ’s policy is to “maintain criminal history information until the subject reaches 100 years of age.” This means criminal records are typically maintained throughout a convicted person’s lifetime.

However, this does not necessarily mean that your misdemeanor conviction has to affect you for the rest of your life. California law provides some processes through which you may be able to “clean your record.”

How to Clear Your California Criminal Record

California does not have a “true expungement” process for criminal records. However, the California Penal Code 1203.4 PC allows you to file a “petition to dismiss.” If your application is granted, you will be able to change your guilty or no contest plea to a not guilty plea. If you were convicted after pleading not guilty, the court will set aside the verdict and dismiss the accusations against you.

So, while your record will remain publicly available, it will read that your conviction has been dismissed. Also, you will be released from most of the penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense you were convicted of.

Eligibility for California Expungement

To be able to apply for a misdemeanor expungement, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have satisfied your probation conditions or been granted early probation termination
  • If you were never granted probation, you must wait at least a year from your conviction date
  • You must not be charged with another offense
  • You must not be serving a sentence for or on probation for another offens

The Expungement Process

The expungement process in California can take several months to complete. The following is a rough timeline describing the application process from start to finish:

  • Seek legal help. Your expungement application is more likely to be successful if you have legal assistance.
  • Review whether or not you meet the criteria.
  • Obtain a copy of your criminal record. Your attorney can assist you with this. You can also do so through the website of the Office of the Attorney General.
  • Obtain the relevant forms. You must complete Form CR-180 (Petition for Dismissal) and submit Form CR-181 (Order for Dismissal) for the judge to sign.
  • Gather all other relevant documents, such as character references and others, as may be advised by your attorney.
  • An expungement hearing date will be fixed. You typically do not need to attend this hearing, as your attorney can represent you in most cases.
  • The court will decide whether or not to grant your application.

Limitations of California Expungement

Even if your petition for dismissal is granted, it is limited in certain areas. For example, a dismissal does not restore any lost firearm rights. It does not reverse any prohibition from serving in a public office. It also does not release you from the terms and conditions of any unexpired criminal protective order.

Finally, expungement in California is not available for every criminal offense. Dismissal is not available for a number of sexual crimes against children.

Record Sealing as an Alternative to California “Expungement”

Another way to get rid of the records of a misdemeanor charge is by asking the courts to seal your record. This option is available by virtue of Penal Code 851.91 PC. Sealing makes your records unavailable to the public. Some governmental bodies, like law enforcement agencies, can still see it during a criminal background check. However, the general public will not.

Record sealing is only available to you if:

  • You were arrested for a misdemeanor offense, but no charges were filed;
  • You were charged, but the charges were dismissed;
  • You completed a diversion program, and your charges were dismissed afterward;
  • You completed the “DEJ” (deferred entry of judgment) program and your charges were dismissed;
  • You went to trial and were acquitted (found not guilty).

To apply for your records to be sealed, you can file Petition to Seal Arrest and Related Records (Form CR-409) with the help of your attorney.

How Can an Attorney Help You?

You might be wondering if you need to hire a criminal defense attorney. The truth is that having a skilled attorney to help you while navigating California’s criminal justice system can make a lot of difference.

If you or your loved one is at risk of a misdemeanor conviction, a skilled attorney can develop a solid defense strategy to help you. For instance, if the offense you are being prosecuted for happened away, your lawyer may be able to rely on the criminal statute of limitations to get your case dismissed.

If you already have a conviction, a criminal defense attorney can use their knowledge of the criminal justice system to help you navigate an expungement application, a petition to dismiss, or an application to seal your record.

Contact the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney

Prevention is always better than cure with criminal charges. It is best to hire an experienced misdemeanor attorney to avoid being convicted in the first instance. At the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney, we provide top-tier legal defense services to ensure our clients get the best possible outcomes from their criminal cases.

We have years of experience providing aggressive criminal defense to our clients all over California. You can rest assured that we provide comprehensive, innovative, and compassionate assistance. And if you already have a criminal conviction, we can provide legal guidance on how to go about an expungement. Reach out today and get a free consultation with us!

Schedule Your Consultation

Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.