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California Criminal Record Expungement Attorneys California Penal Code Section 1203.4

The Harsh Effects of Having a Conviction on your Record

In California, your criminal record is maintained permanently, does not disappear automatically solely because of the passage of time, and is public record. Therefore, having a criminal conviction on your record could have a disastrous effect on the rest of your life. For example, almost all employers run background checks on prospective employees. In the eyes of employers, a conviction on your record will likely make you a less attractive candidate, if not disqualified from consideration altogether. A criminal record may also prevent you from obtaining certain professional licenses from California State agencies. Additionally, a criminal record will likely make it more difficult for you to obtain a mortgage, car loan, get accepted to college, obtain housing, and could result in severe immigration consequences.

An expungement of your criminal record may save you from experiencing these harsh realities and give you a second chance to lead the life you want, despite your past.

Overview of California Expungement Laws (1203.4 PC)

In California, Penal Code Section 1203.4 PC provides a procedure for a person to petition the court to clean up their criminal record by obtaining what is called an expungement. If the court grants your expungement petition, the judge will reopen your case, set aside your conviction or allow you to withdraw your previous guilty plea (including pleas of no contest), and dismiss the case against you. Essentially, an expungement will remove the conviction from your record and it will be as though you never committed the crime. After expunging your record, subject to certain exceptions, you can truthfully and legally answer “no” if you are asked by a prospective employer whether you have ever been convicted of a crime. While this basic definition may seem simple, Penal Code Section 1203.4 PC creates a complex framework of expungement laws, which creates numerous requirements for and exceptions to having your criminal record cleared.

Therefore, if you or a loved one are seeking an expungement, you should hire a seasoned expungement attorney to make sure things are done right. Most of the time, expungements are not granted solely because individuals, acting without an attorney, make avoidable, but costly mistakes. At CDI, our team has over 25 years of experience successfully obtaining expungements for clients. Our extensive knowledge of expungement laws, familiarity with court filing procedures in every county throughout California, and attention to detail is what sets us apart from the rest. If, after reading our comprehensive analysis of California expungement laws below, you have questions or would like to speak to a California expungement attorney, call the attorneys at CDI immediately for a FREE, CONFIDENTIAL consultation at (800) 458-1488. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you.

Who is Eligible to have their California Criminal Record Expunged (1203.4 PC)?

Under Penal Code Section 1203.4, in order to obtain a California Expungement, the following must be true:

  1. You were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense that is eligible for expungement (see which offenses are not eligible below);
  2. You successfully completed your probation or you obtained an order to terminate probation early under PC 1203.3 (see below);
  3. You were never sentenced to California State Prison as a result of either
    1. the conviction itself, or
    2. violating the terms of probation (see our page on Probation Violations); AND
  4. You are not currently charged with a criminal offense, on probation for a criminal offense or serving a sentence for a criminal offense.

“You Successfully Completed Your Probation”

As stated above, if you were granted either informal or formal probation (see our page on Probation) as part of your sentence, you must satisfy all the terms and conditions of probation for the entire period or until the court terminates your probation early for you to be eligible for an expungement.

While the terms and conditions of probation vary from case to case, some common conditions include the following:

  • Do not commit any new offenses while on probation
  • Obey all orders, rules, regulations, and directives of the Court and Jail
  • Pay all fines and/or restitution
  • Perform community service
  • Complete all programs
  • Agree to submit to searches and seizures of your person or property by police or probation officers with or without a warrant

Note: Even if you violated a condition of probation, as long as it did not result in being sentenced to time in a California State Prison, you may still be eligible to get your criminal record expunged. In such a case, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether to grant your expungement, despite your probation violation.

Which Offenses are NOT Eligible for a California Expungement (1203.4 PC)?

Even if you have satisfied all the above requirements, there are certain offenses that just cannot be expunged. The following is an incomplete list of offenses that are not eligible for expungement:

  • Penal Code Section 286(c) PC—Sodomy with a minor
  • Penal Code Section 288 PC—Lewd and lascivious acts with a minor
  • Penal Code Section 288a (c) PC—Oral copulation with a minor
  • Penal Code Section 288.5 PC—Continuous sexual abuse of a child
  • Penal Code Section 261.5 (d) PC—Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 16 years old committed by a person over 21 years old
  • Penal Code Section 289(j) PC—Forcible sexual penetration with a minor under 14 years old
  • Vehicle Code Section 42002.1 VC—Failure to stop and submit to inspection of equipment or for an unsafe condition endangering a person
  • Vehicle Code Section 42001 VC—Infractions or Special Misdemeanors under this section

What Effect will a California Expungement Have?

The most significant benefit of obtaining a California Expungement is that it will almost certainly make finding employment easier.

After successfully obtaining an expungement, you will not have to disclose your conviction to most potential employers. However, you will still have to disclose your conviction if one or more of the following apply to you:

  1. You’re applying for a state license;
  2. You’re applying to become a peace officer;
  3. You’re applying to work for the California Lottery Commission; or
  4. You run for public office.

Note: Despite being required to disclose your conviction when applying for a state license, many California licensing agencies require that you obtain an expungement before they can issue your license. Even when an expungement isn’t enough, the attorneys at CDI may be able to help you obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation (Penal Code Section 4852 PC) (see below), which grants you even more benefits.

In the most difficult of times, I found undoubtedly the best possible attorney to represent my son. Chad Lewin invested countless hours working and strategizing on my son's case. He was at every court date and appeared even when he was not required to be present. Hence, he was able to significantly reduce the sentence in the case. Chad demonstrated not only his superior ability as an attorney, but a compassionate, caring and supportive disposition. He was a huge source of emotional support for my son as well as for me. I am truly grateful to have had such caring man and an outstanding attorney representing the case.

Additionally, an expungement will likely make it easier for you to obtain a mortgage, car loan, an apartment, and could have beneficial immigration consequences

Chad got the charges dismissed for me on a Possession for Sale charge. He's amazing!!! Thank you!!!

What Effect will a California Expungement NOT Have?

While a California Expungement can do a lot to give you a second chance, unfortunately, there are some things that a California Expungement simply cannot change. The following is a list of examples.

  1. Your record will still show that you were arrested and charged

    As mentioned above, when you obtain an expungement, your record will show that you were arrested and charged with an offense, but that the conviction was set aside and the case against you dismissed in the interest of justice. The only way to remove the arrest from your record is to petition the court to have your arrest record sealed and destroyed through a successful Factual Innocence Motion (See below).

    Note: While it is true that an expungement does not completely wipe out your record, it is important to understand how beneficial it is for your record to state that the case against you was dismissed, especially in regards to obtaining employment.

    Under California Labor Code 432.7, an employer cannot:

    1. Discriminate against you for any arrest on your record that did not result in a conviction,
    2. Ask you about any arrest that did not result in a conviction, or
    3. Discriminate against you based on the fact that you have expunged convictions

    Therefore, it is extremely important for you to obtain an expungement so that current and future employers cannot discriminate against you because of your criminal conviction.

  2. Your driving privileges will not be reinstated

    An expungement will not overturn the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.

  3. The conviction may still be used against you as a prior conviction

    Despite an expungement, the conviction may still be used against you as a prior conviction for purposes of sentence enhancements for subsequent convictions and “strikes” under California’s three strikes law.

  4. Your gun rights will not be restored under Penal Code Section 29800 PC

    Under Penal Code Section 29800 PC, California’s Felon with a Firearm Law, convicted felons are prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving a gun. Even expunging the felony from your record will not restore your gun rights.

    The attorneys at CDI may be able to get your gun rights restored by assisting you in getting your Felony Conviction Reduced to a Misdemeanor (Penal Code Section 17(b) PC) or obtaining a Governor’s Pardon (Penal Code Section 4800 PC) (see below).

  5. You will not be relieved of your duty to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290 PC.

    While your case will be dismissed, an expungement will not end your duty to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290 PC.

    The attorneys at CDI may be able to get you relieved of your registration duty by helping you obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation (Penal Code Section 4852 PC) or a Governor’s Pardon (Penal Code Section 4800 PC) (See below).

When Can I File My Petition for a California Expungement?

Modification or Termination of Probation (Penal Code Section 1203.3 PC)

If you are currently on probation, you will be unable to obtain an expungement, unless you petition the court to terminate your probation early

Under California Penal Code Section 1203.3 PC, the court may revoke, modify, or change the terms of your probation order at any time during the term of probation, including the ability to terminate your probation term early. The attorneys at CDI can file your motion to terminate probation early together with your expungement petition to save you time and money.

For more information, please see our page on Modifying or Terminating Probation.

Petition to Seal and Destroy Criminal Record (Penal Code Section 851.8 PC)

As mentioned above, expungements do not remove arrests and charges from your criminal record. However, you may be able to remove them by petitioning the court to seal and destroy your criminal record, also called a "motion for factual innocence."

Under Penal Code Section 851.8 PC, to get the court to seal and destroy your criminal record, you must show that you were improperly accused of a criminal offense. You may have been improperly accused of a criminal offense if:

  • You were arrested, but no charges were formally filed;
  • Charges were initially filed against you, but subsequently dismissed; OR
  • Your case went to trial, but you were found not guilty by the court or a jury.

For more information, please see our page on Sealing and Destroying your Criminal Record.

Reducing Your Conviction to a Misdemeanor (Penal Code Section 17(b) PC)

As mentioned above, an expungement will not restore your gun rights under Penal Code Section 29800 PC. However, the attorneys at CDI may be able to get your gun rights restored by getting your Felony Conviction Reduced to a Misdemeanor

Under California Penal Code Section 17(b), you may be able to reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor if the offense is a “wobbler.” A wobbler is an offense that may be either punished as a felony or a misdemeanor

For more information, please see our page on Reducing Your Conviction to a Misdemeanor.

Governor’s Pardon (Penal Code Section 4800 PC)

As mentioned above, an expungement will not end your duty to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290 PC. However, the attorneys at CDI may be able to get you relieved of your registration duty by helping you obtain a Governor’s Pardon. Additionally, obtaining a Governor’s Pardon is another way to restore your gun rights and may make it easier for you to obtain a professional license

Under Penal Code Section 4800 PC, you will not be eligible for a Governor’s Pardon if you committed certain offenses.

For more information, please see our page on Obtaining a Governor’s Pardon.

Certificate of Rehabilitation (Penal Code Section 4852 PC)

Another way to end your duty to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290 PC is to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation. A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court document that declares that you have been rehabilitated following your criminal conviction.

Under Penal Code Section 4852 PC, if you are granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation, the Certificate becomes an automatic application for a Governor’s Pardon.

For more information, please see our page on Certificates of Rehabilitation.


  1. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC -- California expungement law
  2. Id.
  3. Id.
  4. Id.
  5. Id.
  6. Id.
  7. Id.
  8. California Business and Professions Code 480
  9. California Labor Code 432.7
  10. California Vehicle Code 13555 VC
  11. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC
  12. Id.
  13. California Penal Code 1203.4a PC
  14. California Penal Code 1203.3 PC
  15. California Penal Code 851.8 PC
  16. California Penal Code 17(b) PC
  17. California Penal Code 4800 PC
  18. Id.
  19. California Penal Code 4800 PC
  20. Id.

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