Many people who have been convicted on a misdemeanor charge or certain felonies for which they were not sentenced to prison can, after certain conditions are met, apply to the court for what is commonly called an “expungement” of the conviction. This relief is available under several statutory schemes, the most common being Penal Code section 1203.4. Referring to this relief by the term “expungement” is a misnomer because the conviction is not entirely expunged. But since everyone calls it an expungement, I will use that term here also.
When a defendant who has completed probation, or is otherwise discharged from probation, he or she may apply to the court to set aside the verdict of guilty and order the conviction dismissed. I discuss how this process is accomplished here. If the court so orders, the defendant is relieved of the penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction and no longer carries the many burdens of having a criminal conviction on his or her record. For example, the former defendant no longer has to report the conviction on a job application (with some exceptions) and will reflect favorably when applying for a professional license.
However, many people are surprised to learn that the record of the offense still appears on the person’s Department of Justice criminal history record, although it now shows as dismissed. Furthermore, the expunged conviction still imposes some burdens upon the former defendant. For example, the offense must be reported if the former defendant is applying for certain jobs or wants to enter a career, which require licensing or are public service jobs, and the expungement will not relieve the former defendant of any firearm possession restrictions that were part of the conviction.