It has been said that everyone deserves a second chance. Many believe that expungement is a route to a second chance — and it can be. However, it is important to understand exactly how expungement works in California.
If thinking about seeking expungement of a criminal record, it is important to not have any misconceptions about what expungement can and can’t do. There are definite benefits, but there are also some limitations you should recognize.
5 things that expungement can’t do
If awarded an expungement in California, you need to know the reality about these common myths:
- An expungement erases a criminal record: Wrong. Expungement does not erase a conviction. So, what does it accomplish? Expungement updates the criminal record to withdraw a guilty plea and replaces it with a “not guilty” plea and shows that the case has been “dismissed.”
- An employer can’t see my criminal record: Wrong. With an expungement, an employer or potential employer can see that the conviction occurred and that dismissal was later added.
- I don’t have to answer “yes” when asked about criminal convictions on an application: This one depends on the situation. With an expungement, a job application can be marked “no” when asked if convicted of a crime. However, if applying for a license, the applicant must disclose the conviction. It is ok to indicate, “Yes, but conviction dismissed.” You may not be declined for a license application, but you must disclose it.
- An expungement can’t be used against me with a new charge: Wrong. If facing new charges, your past criminal history — expunged or not — can still be used against you in sentencing.
- If my criminal record is expunged, I can legally own a firearm: Wrong. Even with an expungement, you will not be able to purchase or own a firearm.
It is important to know what exactly an expungement does for you. It is equally important to know what an expungement can’t do. If looking for a fresh start, expungement is still a good first step. Having professional guidance that is experienced in California’s criminal law is essential to the process.