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Even decades after the fact, a former conviction can continue to harm your ability to live a normal life. In fact, a criminal record is a never-ending black mark on your good name, which can severely harm your ability to find a good job, apartment or even obtain a loan. For this reason, many Los Angeles residents seek to have their criminal record expunged, so that employers and landlords will no longer hold their past against them. Fortunately, California has established a procedure to have your criminal record expunged, making it no longer available to most organizations and individuals.
What an Expungement Will Not Do
However, it is important to note that there are limits to what an expungement can do for you. Most importantly, the criminal record does not simply vanish and is not discarded by the state. Rather, it is placed under court seal, preventing most private organizations from being able to access it. However, even after it has been expunged, your past criminal conviction will continue to have an impact on your life.
Subsequent Criminal Proceedings
An expunged conviction is still visible to the criminal justice system. Should you be convicted of a later offense, an expunged conviction will still count as a prior conviction for sentencing purposes. This can be especially damaging if the expunged conviction would count as a “strike” under California sentencing guidelines.
Sex Offender Status
If you have been convicted of a sex offense that requires registration as a sex offender, the expungement will not free you from needing to register. However, expunging a sex offense is an important part of the process that may see the individual being freed from the registration requirement. If that is your ultimate goal, you should consult with an attorney, as this process is quite complex.
Expungement and Driving Privileges
If your license has been suspended or revoked due to an expunged offense, your driving rights will not be automatically restored. The Department of Motor Vehicles has its own procedures that must be followed in order to restore your driving privileges.
Some state licensing agencies do not recognize an expungement. This is most common with licensing agencies for medical professionals and educators, but can vary widely depending on the agency and state in question. It is important to directly contact the licensing agency in question in order to determine whether or not they can demand that you provide them with information about an expunged conviction.
The Federal Government
The federal government does not have to honor a California expungement. If you are applying for a job, you may be required to disclose the details of the expunged crime. Even an expunged crime may render you ineligible for employment that requires a security clearance, whether you are directly employed by the federal government or are seeking employment from a private contractor with the federal government.
Expungement and Firearms
If you were convicted of a crime that resulted in you losing your right to own or possess a firearm, an expungement will not restore that right. You will either have to seek a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon or wait until the period of your firearm restriction has expired.
Expungement and Public Office
Some convictions render an individual ineligible to hold various elected and public offices. If you have been convicted of one of these crimes, an expungement will not restore your ability to hold the offices in question.
Ultimately, while an expungement is a powerful tool to rehabilitate an individual’s record, it does have limitations. However, even in these cases, obtaining an expungement can be an important first step in the legal process that will culminate in the restoration of all of your legal rights. Contact our Los Angeles law offices in order to determine what an expungement can do for you and how best to address your unique situation.