Young man spreading arms in natureSan Diego criminal defense attorney Paul A. Hefley Jr. can help you make a new beginning. California Penal Code Section 1203.4/1203.4(a) permits the court to expunge certain offenses so long as the defendant didn’t serve a prison sentence. It’s important to note, however, that an expungement will not completely clear the conviction from your record. The conviction will remain on your record for many purposes, including sex offender registration and immigration consequences. What the statute provides is the defendant is “released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense.” Once your criminal record has been expunged, it will include a note that it was “dismissed.”

There are numerous limitations to this relief. An expungement will not:

  • Reinstate the right to possess firearms, if it was taken away (e.g., domestic violence cases);
  • Allow you to entirely omit the conviction from applications for government issued licenses;
  • Prevent the conviction from being used as a “prior” or “strike prior” to increase punishment on a subsequent conviction;
  • Prevent the conviction from being used by INS for removal and exclusion purposes;
  • Prevent the conviction from being used for impeachment purposes on a subsequent offense;
  • Seal or otherwise remove the court case file from public inspection; and
  • Remove the requirement to register as a sex offender per Penal Code section 290. If the expungement is granted, registrants must then complete and file paperwork requesting a Certificate of Rehabilitation, when eligible. A Certificate of Rehabilitation will relieve specified sex offenders from further registration.

However, an expungement will:

  • Result in a new entry in the court record showing the case was dismissed;
  • Allow you to truthfully answer on private-sector job applications that you’ve never been convicted. However, if you’re applying for a government job or a job which requires a government-issued license, certificate, or permit, or a job which involves a security clearance, the conviction will undoubtedly be discovered; therefore, you should disclose the initial conviction and its subsequent dismissal by responding with “YES—CONVICTION DISMISSED;”
  • Prevent use of the conviction to impeach you if you testify as a witness, unless you are being tried for a subsequent offense; and
  • Allow you to get closure and put the past behind you once and for all.


You may be eligible for expungement, if you:

  • successfully completed probation or were discharged before the end of your probationary period;
  • are not serving a sentence or on probation for any other offense; and
  • have not been charged with any other offense.


The applicant must file a “Petition for Relief” with the Superior Court, where the conviction occurred, for review and a decision by the court. Felonies always require additional paperwork, and a written motion must be filed with your petition. Likewise, additional filings are required if you were convicted of a DUI,  Reckless Driving, or Driving on a Suspended License.

The Court charges a fee $120 for each felony case and $60 for each misdemeanor or infraction case. However, the court may waive the fee after the petitioner establishes an inability to pay.

Once all the necessary filings have been made, the court normally takes at least 8-10 weeks to make a decision on a case.


If you’d like to find a lawyer who can help you determine if the expungement process is right for you, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation.