California residents facing criminal conviction may wonder about expungement. How does it work? Is it worth pursuing? The answer differs from person to person.
For some, expungement is a big help. For others, it may end up causing more trouble than it is worth. It all depends on your personal situation.
What is an expungement?
The American Bar Association describes expungement in a concise way. Expungement is a process in which your criminal conviction is sealed or destroyed. Federal and state records will no longer hold onto it. The order directs courts to treat your conviction like it never happened. This removes it from your criminal record. In an ideal scenario, this removes it from public record, too.
Expungement is not a legal pardon. A legal pardon is “forgiveness” for a crime you faced conviction for. A public figure must grant pardons. Courts or judges order expungement proceedings.
What does an expungement look like in California?
In California, expungement does not mean the destruction of your criminal record. But it does give you a valuable ability. When filling out job applications, they ask if you have convictions on record. If you have your conviction expunged, you can legally answer these questions by saying “no”. This prevents job discrimination. It improves your ability to continue life after a conviction.
But it does not work for everyone. First, expungement is not an option for all convictions. You cannot go through expungement proceedings if you are facing another offense. If you are already serving a sentence, expungement is not available to you. The same applies if you already served part of a sentence.
Second, you need to go through a period of probation before expungement. But you can request for a judge to modify your probation to seek expungement. Thus, whether expungement is worth it depends on your personal circumstances.