Does an Expungement Erase a Conviction?

The word “expunge” ordinarily means to erase or to strike. Unfortunately, in California, the word “expungement” when talking about clearing a prior criminal record is a misnomer in that it neither strikes nor erases the criminal record.

In other words, the conviction is not erased from the record, but rather the person withdraws their previous guilty plea (or the court sets aside a guilty verdict if the person lost a trial), and the case is dismissed.

The practical effect of a successful “expungement” is that the case is retroactively dismissed. While the conviction remains on a person’s criminal record as having been “dismissed pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4,” the person no longer needs to disclose the conviction to most employers. The conviction will still have to be disclosed to government, state, or licensing agencies who can also use the expunged conviction against the person. Otherwise, the Labor Code prohibits other employers from using an expunged conviction as a reason to not hire the person.

Unfortunately, if a person was convicted of a crime, it is legally impossible to erase the conviction completely from their criminal record. Only an arrest or detention that did not result in a conviction can be erased from a criminal record. Stay tuned for a later post on “seal and destroying” an arrest that did not result in a conviction.

Having said all that, an expungement is a beneficial tool in cleaning, not clearing, a criminal record. It might be the difference between getting that job and not.

If you have been convicted of DUI or a DUI-related offense and wish to have the conviction expunged, contact the Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor. The entire process shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks and, depending upon the jurisdiction, you will probably not have to personally appear in court.

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