How to Expunge a Criminal Record in San Diego

Finding a job is hard enough, but if you have the added disadvantage of a criminal record, it can feel truly daunting. You fessed up, served your time in County, and now you want a fresh start, but no employer will take a second look at you. Fortunately, California allows convicts to expunge their criminal history, thereby erasing any record that they were ever in trouble. However, the procedure is far from simple, so FindLaw has created this guide on how to expunge a criminal record in San Diego.

Get Your Criminal Record

You need to know what's on your record before you can request any part of it to be deleted. There are several methods to accomplish this. The first step is to look at the court papers you received at the time of conviction. If you've misplaced these, contact the San Diego Superior Court (or whatever county you were convicted in) to obtain an order of judgment.

Courts purge their records after ten years, so if your conviction is more than ten years old, you'll need to contact the California State Department of Justice, Criminal Record Review Unit. Just follow the instructions on their website, or contact them by telephone at (916) 227-3400 (also, ask about a fee waiver with proof of low income).

Your criminal record will contain information essential to successfully expunging your conviction. Specifically, here's some of the information you'll need:

  • the docket number;
  • the date of conviction and/or plea;
  • the code name and section number you were convicted of violating;
  • the verdict or plea;
  • the probation terms and length, and whether it was formal or informal probation;
  • any fines, restitution, or reimbursement you were required to pay;
  • the prison sentence, if applicable, and your release date;
  • the date your parole ended, if applicable.

Is My Conviction Eligible for Expungement?

As you are learning how to expunge a criminal record in San Diego, keep in mind that only misdemeanors are eligible for expungement. Fortunately, you can also petition the court to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor and then expunge it all the same. If you are ineligible for expungement, try skipping to the "Certificate of Rehabilitation" section below.

First, if you are still on parole from a felony conviction, you cannot have your record expunged. Once you're off parole you may be able to give it a shot. Next, some crimes (mainly sex crimes or drunk driving) will never be expunged. Specifically:

Finally, you are ineligible for expungement if you are currently on probation. However, you can petition the court to let it slide with a Motion to Terminate Probation under Penal Code section 1203.3(a). Follow this guide for information on terminating probation early.

If you were convicted of a felony not listed above and have completed parole, you can petition the court to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor, pursuant to Penal Code section 17(b). If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, or if your felony was reduced to a misdemeanor, and you have either completed probation or were never on probation, you are likely eligible for expungement under Penal Code sections 1203.4 and 1203.4a.

File Your Petition for Dismissal

Section 1203.4 governs cases where probation was granted, while section 1203.4a governs cases where probation was denied. Either way, you'll need to file this Petition for Dismissal form with the San Diego County Superior Court. This same form allows you to request felonies to be reduced to misdemeanors.

If you mail the Petition to the court make sure you include this Proof of Service form. If you want to file in person, the Central Courthouse is located downtown at 220 West Broadway, though there are branch locations for north, south and east county too. A petition under section either section requires a fee.

Certificate of Rehabilitation

If you are ineligible for expungement, you can still improve your employment potential with a Certificate of Rehabilitation, which is governed by Penal Code section 4852.01. A successful petition can relieve sex offenders of further duty to register under Penal Code section 290 and automatically recommends a full pardon from the governor.

Marijuana Possession

If you were convicted of possession of marijuana for personal use, your case is automatically erased from your record after two years under Health and Safety Code sections 11361.5 and 11361.7. However, note that convictions for cultivation, sales, or transportation don't qualify for automatic expungement.

If you're still craving info, check out the San Diego County guide to expungement, or read the California Courts guide. If you are currently facing criminal charges, check out this information about San Diego criminal cases or read up on general criminal law concepts.

Free Case Review from a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges in San Diego, you'll want to understand the minimum and maximum penalties should you be convicted or enter a plea. Let's face it. The laws aren't written as clearly as they could be and many times you'll need a legal expert to help you. If you have questions about the charges against you or are looking for a strong criminal defense attorney, you can find one and get a free case review today.

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