Legislation recently signed into law by Governor Newsom will make certain previously convicted individuals automatically eligible for the dismissal of their conviction when four years have passed since the completion of their sentence. This new law makes many Penal Code section 1203.4 petitions for expungement automatic rather than requiring filing a petition in court.
Not all convictions will be eligible, but many will. There will be no requirement to file any petition or motion for the relief. Rather, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) is tasked by this legislation to review statewide records on a monthly basis to identify those individuals who are eligible for this relief. To be eligible the individual must not have been convicted of another felony within the four year period following completion of sentence.
Persons not eligible for this relief include those who are required to register as sex offenders, persons on active probation or supervised release, those with pending criminal charges, those for whom the conviction was for a serious felony (as defined in Penal Code Section 1192.7, subdivision (c), or a violent felony defined in Penal Code Section 667.5. Serious and violent felonies not eligible include murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, mayhem, rape, forced sex crimes, sex crimes against children, arson, robbery, carjacking, and kidnapping among other crimes (refer to the above-referenced penal code sections for an exhaustive list).
Even with the many exceptions to this relief, this new law, which will be effective July 1, 2023 will give relief to thousands of individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.
In practical terms, once the DOJ grants the relief, the individual’s criminal history record will still show the conviction but will include an entry stating “relief granted.” “Relief granted” means that many of the restrictions that encumber an individual with a conviction on their record will be removed. For example, the individual will no longer need to report the conviction on an employment application (except when applying for certain jobs such as a peace officer) or report the conviction on a housing application, etc. However, the granted relief does not relieve the individual for firearm restrictions pursuant to the conviction and does not remove the penalties and restrictions imposed under the vehicle code for persons convicted of driving under the influence. There are other restrictions to the relief and the prior conviction can still be considered by the justice system should the individual be arrested and charged in the future.
When this law takes effect, there will be many questions and there will likely be challenges in court. There will certainly be individuals who slip through the cracks that should have been granted the relief but were not. If you think you might be eligible, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney to see if your prior conviction will be automatically dismissed under this law. Once it goes into effect, an individual can request their DOJ criminal history record to see if their conviction was properly notated with “relief granted.” Do not assume that your conviction was dismissed without confirmation from the DOJ. Orange County criminal defense attorney William Weinberg can assist you in assessing your eligibility and requesting your criminal record.
Although it will be several months until this legislation takes full effect, you are welcome to consult with Attorney Weinberg as to your options. If you want to speed up the process, eligible individuals can still file a petition for dismissal (commonly called an expungement) of their conviction now.
Criminal defense attorney William Weinberg has been serving the Orange County community for over 25 years. He is available for a free consultation to discuss any criminal matter you have. You may contact him at his Irvine office by calling 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.