Out With The Old, In With The New!

9.18.13 Expungement


Story provided via J.Carter Law Group – 


The other day I was sitting in Starbucks when I realized the man and woman sitting next to me were about to conduct an interview. My initial reaction was to leave, since their chatter had already interrupted my flow. But then the interviewee arrived and things got kind of interesting.

Over the course of the interview, I learned (in between doing my work, of course) that the man and woman were interested in the man for the position, but were concerned about a conviction that came up on his background check that he did acknowledge on his application. They wanted to meet him before making a decision.

They asked the man some questions about his conviction and explained that since his conviction involved theft, there were some concerns. The man went on and on telling his story of the past and how he had since been to college and made positive life changes, etc. The employers told him they really liked him and would get back to him. They also asked if he had ever considered getting the conviction expunged. He said he heard about expungements, but wasn’t quite sure how they worked. (Yes, I was listening this hard)The interview concluded and the interviewers said they were interviewing other people but they’d get back to him about the position.

I sat there and thought about how different that interview could’ve gone had the man fully understood the benefit of expungements and had actually gotten his conviction expunged.

1. What is an expungement?
In California, an expungement is a dismissal pursuant to §1203.4 of the penal code. Many convictions can be dismissed if certain requirements are met. Once the petition filed with the court requesting the dismissal is granted, the plea of Guilty or No Contest is withdrawn and the court dismisses the case.

2. Who is eligible for an expungement?
A person is eligible to petition for an expungement if they:
• Successfully completed probation
• Were granted early termination of probation
• Completed a county jail sentence without probation (and 1 year has passed since release)
• Completed all other court orders such as any classes, programs, treatment, CalTrans, community service, etc.
• Paid any and all restitution, fines and fees imposed by the court.

• If you’ve been sentenced to state prison or the department of corrections you are NOT eligible for an expungement (we will discuss alternative options at a later time).
• There are certain crimes that are not eligible for expungement (contact our office for information on these offenses).
• You are not on (newly sentenced) probation or charged with (since your last conviction) a new offense in another case.

3. Why get an expungement?
The benefits of an expungement are endless. Most frequently, my clients are seeking them for peace of mind. If you’ve made mistakes in your past and you’ve since made significant strides towards improving yourself, why let an old conviction hang over your head. Most often I hear my clients say their old convictions don’t mesh with their new way of life; as such, they want them removed.

Additionally, expungments are essential for purposes of :
• Employment
• Housing
• Licensing (nursing, law, real estate, etc)
• Membership is various organizations and professional associations
• Many more areas

In this technology age, over 80% of employers conduct background checks. It’s as simple as the click of a mouse. Employers do it to protect their interests and to better ascertain the “type” of people they’re potentially hiring. If the young man in Starbucks had gotten his conviction expunged, a background check would’ve revealed a dismissed conviction instead of a conviction. How much more believable would he have been when telling the employers that he went to college and made positive life changes?

A friend of mine has worked as a human resources executive for over 15 years. In that time (you’re so not ready for this) she has only come across ONE (1) background check with a dismissed conviction. In other words, in reviewing thousands of background checks, she’s only seen ONE where the person bothered to get an expungement ________________________ (←that was my temporary flatline).

You cannot convince a person that you’ve fully moved on and changed your life if you are not taking advantage of everything that is available to you. If you’ve changed, prove it! Change a conviction to a dismissal if you’re eligible. Why roll the dice when you can clearly demonstrate you’ve done everything in your power to move forward since that time. You decide how you want people to see you. That paperwork (background checks, job applications, etc) reaches employers before they get to meet you and get captivated by your charm and personality. It doesn’t matter how great you are at interviews, how fabulous a suit you have, how firm your handshake is, if you don’t can’t get your foot in the door. Make the decision to do everything in your power to present your BEST self!

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