How Long Does A Felony Stay On Your Record In California?

When you get convicted of a felony, it will stay on your criminal record. An expungement may be available if you did not get sentenced to prison. An expungement will not seal, erase, or make a conviction unfindable. An expungement will show an arrest, a conviction, a period of probation successfully served, and a dismissal under Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.

A criminal record with a felony conviction can have major implications for your future. It can jeopardize your employment prospects for years to come, and impact your ability to secure the housing opportunities you desire since landlords and employers will have access to view your criminal record.

A felony will remain on your records forever unless you take action. This article will explore the implications of a felony on your criminal record and what you can do to avoid them.

What is a Felony Crime

A felony is defined as a crime of high gravity that is punishable by more than a year in prison. Unlike a misdemeanor charge, felonies tend to come with more severe sentences and can critically affect your rights.

The best way to keep your record clean is to not be convicted in the first place. If you are facing a felony conviction, or need the conviction expunged, get in touch with a competent and experienced criminal defense lawyer as early as possible.

Louis J. Goodman has protected defendants’ rights in court for more than thirty years in California and has a deep understanding of California law and criminal defense strategies. Call Louis J. Goodman today for a free consultation regarding your case and secure the best chance of protecting your future.

Wobbler vs. Straight Felony Convictions

Certain crimes are designated a felony status only, such as committing murder, selling a controlled substance, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and rape. Those convicted will automatically have a felony on their criminal record.

On the other hand, a wobbler is a crime that may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts in the case, any aggravating factors that are present, and the defendant’s criminal history. Domestic violence, vandalism, assault with a deadly weapon, and sexual violence are all examples of wobbler felonies.

The prosecutor decides whether the defendant will be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are prosecuted with the former, you can go to county jail for up to one year. If you are charged with a felony, you could go to state prison for up to three years.

California’s Three Strikes Law

In the state of California, the three-strikes law is a sentencing system. In essence, it dictates that any individual convicted of three or more violent or serious felonies will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

When it came into force in 1994, the law included all felony crimes. It was later updated in 2012 to reflect only extreme or violent felony convictions. Previously, offenders could collect multiple strikes for a single crime. However, in 2014, the California Supreme Court ruled that only a single strike could be assigned to one criminal act.

All felony crimes will be visible on your record for those performing background checks to access unless you take action to have it removed.

Who Can See Your Record?

Numerous groups can access your criminal record and see felony or misdemeanor convictions. These include law enforcement officers such as the police, probation officer, and parole officers.

Some professional organizations in industries like legal and real estate can access your criminal record when you apply for a state license. Additionally, prospective employers and landlords can see your criminal record during applications for a new job or abode.

Can a Felony Be Removed From My Record?

A felony will stay on your record forever in California unless you choose to take action and get the conviction removed. This is called the “expungement process” and generally requires the help of a legal representative to get underway.

Rather than the federal courts, state courts handle the expungement process. While expungement can clear your record under certain circumstances, it will not erase any media coverage, social media content, or damage your public reputation may have sustained during the trial or as a result of the conviction.

Which Felonies Cannot be Expunged in California?

The expungement process can be challenging and requires the assistance of a lawyer. It is generally only a successful endeavor for individuals who did not serve time in California state prison and those who have completed the terms of their probation. Moreover, the criminal justice system does not allow certain felonies to be removed from convicted offenders’ records.

Crimes that cannot be expunged from a criminal record in California include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Statutory rape that involves one party under the age of 16, and the other party over the age of 21
  • Certain sex offenses that involve children
  • Murder
  • Assault with a deadly weapon that results in serious injury
  • Acts of terrorism

What are the Limitations of Expungement?

While the expungement process can liberate a defendant from penalties and civil affliction sustained from the conviction, it’s imperative to understand that it does not necessarily put things back “as they were” before the conviction.

For example, if your gun rights were revoked following the offense, an expunged record will not restore these rights. Additionally, if you have had your driver’s license suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in California, sealing your record does not automatically give you the right to drive again.

California expungement does not end sex offender registration requirements nor prevent law enforcement officers or the criminal justice system from using the prior conviction as a sentencing enhancer for subsequent criminal charges. In this case, the felony conviction may also be one strike in California’s three-strikes law.

Who is Eligible for Expungement?

Felonies eligible for expungement are often wobblers that could have been charged as a misdemeanor. If you were convicted in a federal court proceeding or have served time in California state prison, it’s likely that your record does not qualify for expungement. Individuals that are still serving probation, or are currently facing charges, serving prison time, or on probation for a separate crime will not be able to have their records expunged either.

With that in mind, here are some circumstances that typically do allow for expungement in California:

  • You were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.
  • You are not currently facing any criminal charges or serving a sentence for a criminal conviction.
  • You didn’t serve time in state prison.
  • You have completed felony probation or had your probation terminated early.
  • You have completed all requirements of your sentence.
  • You were convicted in California state court, not federal court.
  • You do not have an outstanding court order or associated fines.
  • If you did not receive probation, it has been at least one year since your conviction.
  • If you were convicted of a felony and served time in county jail.

If you have a felony conviction on your criminal record, it’s worth reaching out to Louis J. Goodman for a free consultation to check if you can have your felony expunged. Sealing your felony record can help you to avoid further negative implications it may have on your life.

What Are the Benefits of Expungement?

Some of the benefits include:

  • Possible exemption from disclosing your criminal history in job applications
  • The ability to obtain state licenses or certifications from professional organizations that require you to have a clean criminal record
  • Qualifying for public grants or funds, including scholarships
  • Not having your credibility questioned in court proceedings

In California, job applicants are not required to disclose their criminal conviction history when applying for a job, though the question almost always arises at some stage in the hiring process. Expunging your criminal record means that you may not have to check the box stating you have a prior criminal conviction.

What is the Expungement Process?

Now we have discussed how long does a felony stay on your record in California, what expungement is, and whether you may be eligible, you’re ready to begin the process of filing to expunge the felony charge from your criminal history. Here are the necessary steps required to remove felony charges from your records.

Seek Legal Advice

The first action is to speak with your attorney about getting your records expunged. Being represented by a lawyer will lead you to a greater chance of success. Attorneys can also help you understand the process as you move through it by interpreting legal jargon and assisting with complex legal forms.

Acquire and Complete Legal Documents

Before you get your felony expunged, you need to get the charge reduced to a misdemeanor. This can be achieved by filing a form under PC 17(b)(3), usually available from the courthouse. If it is not, you can draft a copy with the help of your lawyer.

Once your charge has been reduced to a misdemeanor, you need to file for a Petition to Dismiss a Misdemeanor, PC 1203.4. You can get these forms from the courthouse or download them online.

File For Expungement

Hearings take place in the same order they were filed, and the next step is to initiate the hearing process. The timeframe for an expungement to be successfully completed in California is typically a few months.

Prepare For Your Hearing

Your lawyer will guide you through the preparatory process before your hearing. In some cases, you will need to appear at the hearing, and in others, you will not. Often during hearings, reasons to deny expungement are presented. Be prepared to defend your objectives, and provide all supporting documentation and a written statement to the courts.

The Expungement Hearing

An expungement hearing usually takes about 10 minutes, and it takes place before a judge with no jury. The judge will determine whether you are eligible for expungement by considering:

  • The nature of the criminal offense
  • The status of your parole
  • Any additional convictions that may be present
  • Whether you can find and hold a job
  • Any community service, and your involvement with the community

If you are successful, the California Superior Court Judge will send you a signed order detailing the dismissal of your conviction. If your petition is denied you can ask why it has been rejected and learn what is necessary to get it accepted next time. Once you have made the necessary changes and six months have passed since your petition was rejected, you can file with the courts again.

Final Thoughts

When you’re facing a criminal conviction, it’s natural to wonder how long does a felony stay on your record in California. The inconvenient truth is that it will be there forever unless you take decisive action to have it removed.

With an excellent professional legal representative, you can get your felony expunged and sealed from public view and may even get your case dismissed altogether. This can lift the weight of a felony conviction from your shoulders and help you move forward in life with confidence.

If you’re facing felony charges or want to learn whether you can have your record expunged, reach out to Louis J. Goodman. He will ensure a discrete and supportive attorney-client relationship and help you prepare an aggressive defense for your case.

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