Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cleaning up your record and the Art of moving forward

For many people, after they have gone through the legal process and completed their court-imposed sanctions, they just want to forget about the matter. But the reality is that a criminal record, even for minor offenses can continue to haunt you. Anyone with a less than spotless past must constantly answer questions regarding their criminal record, potentially impacting their job prospects, where they live and the ability to travel. For example, Canada has strict rules regarding admitting visitors with even minor criminal records. Fortunately, in most case, in California, there are several legal options to clear a persons criminal history. Cleaning up your record can allow you to move forward and put your past behind you. Here at the Chastaine Law Office we specialize in assisting persons clean up their criminal records.

Dismissal of an adult criminal charge
In California, Penal Code section 1203.4 allows a person, for most offenses, to petition the court to dismiss their case. This dismissal is available if:
1. You were granted probation and successfully complied with all the terms of your sentence (or, if your were not placed on probation, not sent to state prison and more then one year has past since your conviction.)
2. You are not currently charged with another offense and not currently on probation for another offense.
The court does have discretion to grant you a dismissal if you did not fulfill all of the conditions of your probation but these types of cases usually requires a very strong showing as to why the court should do so.

Most people call this type of dismissal an expungement. Technically an expungement does not exist under California law. In other words a dismissal under section 1203.4 does not completely erase your records. You will no longer be considered, under the law, to have a conviction. However, in most cases if you commit a new offense, even a dismissed case can be used as a prior. The big advantage of the dismissal in this form is that a prospective employer cannot ask about, or consider in making a hiring decision, any arrest or detention that did not end in a conviction. You are required to disclose the case, even with a dismissal, if you apply for a professional license such as a teaching credential or real estate license. But having the case dismissed is very important to the licensing agencies and greatly improves your chances of having the license granted.

Sealing Juvenile records
If you have a juvenile conviction, in most circumstances you can have your record sealed on or after your 18th birthday. This does not happen automatically, rather, you must file a petition with the juvenile court in the county where you were convicted. After your records are sealed, no one can gain access to them and they will be destroyed five (5) years after the date of the sealing.

Certificate of Rehabilitation
Some times the remedy that a client wants can not be achieved simply through a dismissal. For example, if a person is required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code section 290, the only way to be relieved of that obligation may be through a certificate of rehabilitation. Such a certificate requires a lengthy passage of time (usually 5 to 10 years) and that the person has stayed out of trouble and lived a law abiding life. This is discretionary with the court but is achievable in the right circumstances. Seeing a knowledgable attorney to determine if you are eligible and to make this presentation is critical to having success.

Just because you got in trouble in the past does not mean that you have to live with it the rest of your life. Talk to a knowledgable attorney to determine what your options are and move forward.