How to Clear Your San Joaquin County Criminal Record
Approximately 1 in every 3 people in the United States have a criminal record of some kind, whether it be for an arrest, charges against them, or a conviction. A criminal record can make your life very difficult in several ways. The first, and probably most important way that a criminal record can hurt you is when you apply for a job. This is especially true if you have a felony on your record. However, a criminal record can also interfere with other rights such as your right to own a firearm or vote, and it may also impede opportunities such as being approved for a loan, getting a state license, or even being allowed to coach your child’s little league team.
Fortunately, there are a number of methods in California that may allow you to clear your criminal record. Some may completely erase your record, while others may just clean it up a bit so it looks better. Either way, many of our clients have their lives changed significantly for the better after taking advantage of one or more of the available programs. Here are some options that may be available to you so you can clear your San Joaquin County criminal record.
Sealing and Destroying Arrest Records
Innocent people who are wrongfully arrested for a crime they didn’t commit forever have a mark against them merely for being arrested. Fortunately, there is way to petition the court to seal and destroy the record of your arrest, which allows you to legally answer “no” if you’re ever asked if you’ve been arrested.
To get your arrest record sealed and destroyed, you must petition the court and convince the judge that you are “factually innocent” of the charges against you. You are eligible to file such a petition if you were never convicted of the charges against you. Here are some examples:
- You were arrested, but no charges were filed by the District Attorney.
- Charges were filed against you, but they were dismissed by the court.
- You took your case to trial and were acquitted.
However, if you were convicted of a crime, or if you plead guilty or no-contest, then you are ineligible to have your arrest records sealed and destroyed. However, there may be other ways for you to clear you record.
Withdrawal of Guilty or No-Contest Plea
If you have already pled guilty or no-contest to a crime, but regret it, there may be a way for you to get a second chance. You must file a motion to withdraw your plea either before you are sentenced or within six months of being sentenced to probation.
In order to have the motion granted, you must show that you have “good cause” to withdraw your plea. Some examples of good cause are:
- You weren’t represented by an attorney.
- Your attorney was incompetent.
- You didn’t know all the consequences of your plea.
- You were coerced into entering the plea.
- You didn’t understand your plea because of a language barrier.
If you win the motion, then your case starts over again at arraignment. You will still face the same potential penalties that you did the first time around, but if you believe that you will receive a more favorable outcome with a second chance, then a motion to withdrawal your plea will allow you that second chance.
Early Termination of Probation
If you have been convicted of a crime, either because you lost at trial or because you pled guilty or no-contest, you may be placed on probation for many years. Your probation may be formal, requiring that you check in with your probation officer, or informal. However, even informal probation can come with restrictions that are not easy to live with. Additionally, you are always at risk that you may be charged with a probation violation if you commit any crime while on probation, which can lead to a lengthy jail or prison sentence.
If you are interested in getting off probation, you can request that the court terminate your probation early. In order to be eligible, you must have fulfilled all the conditions of your probations such as paying fines, attending required classes, and completing any jail sentence. Additionally, the courts usually don’t like to terminate probation unless you have been on it for at least a year. If you can convince the court that you have a good reason to be off probation, such as a job opportunity that requires it, the court may grant your request.
It is always helpful to speak to the prosecutor before filing such a motion, to try to convince them not to oppose it. Also, it is usually convenient to file for an expungement at the same time.
Expungement of Conviction
An expungement is the most common way to clear your record in California. At the most basic level, an expungement sets aside your conviction, and dismisses the case against you. It allows you to legally answer “no” when an employer asks if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Because the law in California does not allow employers to ask about arrests that didn’t result in a conviction, being able to say you were never convicted can be extremely helpful when seeking employment.
If you did not serve a prison sentence, and your conviction is not one of several specified violent or sex crimes, you may be eligible for an expungement. You must have completed your probation, which can be accomplished by a motion for early termination of probation if you are still on probation. If you meet the requirements, and you successfully completed probation without any violations, then you are entitled to an expungement. If you violated your probation, the court may or may not choose to grant your motion.
Our Own Investigation
When you are suspected of a crime, cops are “investigating” to build a case against you. Once they’ve made up their mind, they are not open to alternative theories or suspects, and may ignore evidence that exonerates you. They are not looking for the truth, but are instead looking to get you convicted. They are not on your side.
It’s important in many cases to conduct our own investigation. Our private investigators are former cops, and they know what evidence will best help your case. They may need to re-interview witnesses, canvas neighborhoods to find new witnesses, collect surveillance footage, do background checks on witnesses against you, check phone logs, and find evidence to prove your side of the story. The sooner all this can be done, the bigger the impact can be on your case.
Reduction of Felony to Misdemeanor
If your conviction was for a felony that could have been charged as a misdemeanor, commonly known as a “wobbler”, then you may be eligible to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor at the time of the expungement. Some of our clients have us terminate their probation early, reduce their felony conviction to a misdemeanor, and then expunge the now misdemeanor charge all at once. They go from being on felony probation to a dismissal in one day, which can be a godsend when they are looking for a job.
In November of 2014, Californians voted to pass Proposition 47, known as Prop 47. Prop 47 declared that certain theft crimes that were previously felonies are now misdemeanors. If you were convicted of one of the following crimes as a felony, you are now eligible to have your conviction reduced to a misdemeanor:
- Shoplifting property worth $950 or less
- Grand theft of property worth $950 or less
- Receiving stolen property worth $950 or less
- Forgery for $950 or less
- Writing a fraudulent or bad check for $950 or less
- Possession of a controlled substance
In 2016, Californians changed the laws regarding marijuana by passing Proposition 64. Prop 64 changed certain marijuana felonies to misdemeanors, and changed certain misdemeanors to infractions or to not be crimes at all. If you were convicted of one of the following crimes, you are now likely eligible to have your conviction reduced to a misdemeanor or dismissed entirely:
- Possession of marijuana
- Cultivation of marijuana
- Possession of marijuana for sale
- Transportation of marijuana
Certificate of Rehabilitation
A certificate of rehabilitation is a court order stating that you have been rehabilitated after a felony conviction. You must typically have been out of custody for seven to ten years depending on the underlying charges. You must also demonstrate to the court that you have been a resident of California for a certain period, and that you have obeyed the law since your release.
If your petition for a certificate of rehabilitation is granted, it does not clear the conviction from your record. It does, however, confirm that the courts believe you to now be a law-abiding citizen who has been rehabilitated. This can make a tremendous different when looking for a job, or when applying for a state license. Additionally, if you are approved, your approval will serve as an automatic application for a Governor’s Pardon.
A Governor’s Pardon can restore many rights to someone who has been convicted of a felony. It can restore many of your rights, such as:
- your right to possess a firearm;
- your right to serve on a jury;
- the opportunity be employed as a probation or parole officer; and
- terminate your duty to register as a sex offender.
Governor’s Pardons are historically very rarely granted, but have become more common in recent years. Governor Brown pardoned 91 felons in December of 2015 for Christmas, and pardoned another 59 in March of 2016 for Easter. Although you may apply for a pardon directly, without getting a certificate of rehabilitation, every person he pardoned first obtained a certificate of rehabilitation.
Call us today at (209) 373-4680 or email us at email@example.com to schedule a free consultation. Tell us about yourself and tell us what happened. We can answer any questions you have and give you more information about how your case might resolve.
We work on these types of cases for a flat fee; we don’t bill hourly. That means you know how much you’ll be paying before you hire us, and there are no surprise bills. If you decide to hire us, we can get to work right away to get you the best result possible.