The term “expungement is not an unfamiliar one in criminal law.
Rather a common question from clients seeking to clean their record is, “What can an expungement do for me?” In its strictest definition, expungement refers to having your criminal record dismissed or sealed, making the records unavailable to State or Federal databases. Although expungement does not completely erase one’s criminal record, it does offer multiple benefits. For example, when applying for a job one may honestly reply that they do not have any previous convictions if asked by a potential employer. Expungements also offer assistance in receiving a loan, federally funded benefits such as food stamps, and even when adopting a child.
Unfortunately, in the immigration process expungements are not quite as effective.
In immigration court, criminal records will always be present and can definitely affect one’s status in the United States. In order to have a conviction be deemed harmless in an immigration proceeding that conviction would have to be vacated under constitutional grounds.
That being said, how does one receive an expungement? Although there are some convictions that are NOT eligible for a dismissal through an expungemen, there is a proscribed manner in which eligible convictions can be expunged. Under California Penal Code Section 1203.4, one can petition the court to dimiss a conviction. The requirements are delineated in the penal code but essentially require that all the terms of probation be completed and that the petitioner is not on probation for any new offenses.
Of course it is always advisable to consult with a licensed California Attorney before seeking the remedy of expungement.