Can I have records sealed or expunged for an offense committed as adult? 15 Answers as of December 11, 2010

I was convicted of petty theft when I was 18. I was drunk, I was stupid, it was only once, and all we stole was some alcohol. That was 8 years ago. Now I am applying to law school and having a criminal record however insignificant does not seem like a good idea. Is it possible to have my records sealed or expunged?

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Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
You may seek to have your criminal record expunged at any time. The problem is that the records are not destroyed and remain available for public inspection at the court at which they occurred. In addition, for licensing purposes such as becoming a lawyer the State Bar (and other licensing agencies) can consider expunged convictions and anything else about you for that matter, in assessing your moral character, a criteria for becoming a licensed attorney. One prior misdemeanor theft probably would not prevent you from becoming an attorney but the State Bar could well inquire into the matter before it admits you to the Bar.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 12/11/2010
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
Yes, you can still have such records sealed or expunged.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/17/2010
Law Office of Joseph Galasso
Law Office of Joseph Galasso | Joseph Galasso
Yes, a Penal Code section 1203.4 motion should expunge that conviction. However, after law school the Bar will do a moral character investigation on you. You should disclose this conviction with an explanation and documentation of expungement. In today's society convictions do not disappear.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/16/2010
Nelson & Lawless
Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
The general rule is that records are forever. However, many felony and misdemeanor convictions [not infractions] can sometimes be expunged by proper application and Petition to the court, but only if there was no prison time served or even sentenced and reduced to probation, if it was not for certain sex and Domestic Violence crimes, if all terms of sentencing and probation [and at least one year of probation] are completed and finished, and if there are no new charges pending. If successful, the conviction would be retroactively reduced to a misdemeanor and then withdrawn and the charges dismissed. That does not remove the conviction, but merely changes the record to show conviction reversed and dismissed by expungement. If expunged, you would be able to say no to conviction on most private employment applications.

However, the conviction is still a prior for purposes of repeat offense, and must be disclosed on any application for government and professional licensing, i.e. application for law school admission and attorney licensing, bonding, security clearance, etc. The licensing agency and employer then can decide whether you are barred from licensing and employment because of your conviction. A simple MJ conviction like yours should not bar admission, but that is not a guarantee. If you are serious about doing so, and you think you qualify, feel free to contact me for the legal help you will need.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/16/2010
Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
Yes, a court will grant you an expungement no problem. However, expungement doesn't really give you the relief you want. Specifically, even after an expungement you are supposed to still indicate on any application that asks that you have been convicted of an offense but it has been expunged.

This obviously defeats the purpose of the expungement so it's a bit of a joke. For this reason, many people who obtain an expungement throw caution to the wind and answer "no" when asked if they've ever suffered a conviction. The vast majority of these people never get called on the issue.

Having your record sealed is a different procedure; more complicated but also more effective. The records are truly sealed and cannot be accessed. However, any in depth search would reveal that a file exists even though it's been sealed. The good news is that most searches by employers or schools would not go to this extent.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/15/2010
    Law Offices of Juan Dotson
    Law Offices of Juan Dotson | Juan Dotson
    Yes, your conviction is eligible for an expungement as long as you are not on probation now. My office can get you a court date within 3 weeks (sometimes 2) if you are pressed for time (Los Angeles). Otherwise, it is cheaper if your attorney does the whole process by mail.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    Steven Mandell
    Steven Mandell | Law Offices of Steven Mandell
    A conviction for petty theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and cannot be good for your future licensing as an attorney. However, it probably won't prevent you from becoming a lawyer, either. Yes, you can expunge it (you cannot seal it), and you should, but one of the exceptions to the expungement is that you must admit the conviction in any application for state professional licensing. While expungement isn't going to prevent the State Bar from learning about and considering your petty theft conviction, having it expunged makes it look better and may minimize the sting of having the conviction. If you would like to talk to me about expunging it, please don't hesitate to call. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    The Law Offices of Robert L. Driessen
    The Law Offices of Robert L. Driessen | Robert L. Driessen
    You can not have it sealed. However you can have it expunged.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan | Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    You can have it expunged.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann
    The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann | Christopher J. McCann
    In California, you can absolutely have your record "expunged" under these circumstances under Penal Code 1203.4. If you have successfully completed probation without any violations, the judge must grant it. However, you may still have to report the expungement on a law school application. Please consult an attorney without your application to be absolutely certain. Also, after law school, you may have to report the expungement as part of your application to the State Bar. Again, it is important to sit down with an attorney to determine exactly what needs to be reported.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    Law Offices of Philip P. De Luca
    Law Offices of Philip P. De Luca | Philip De Luca
    You are definitely eligible for an expungement, and you can seek to have the record sealed as well. Penal Code Section 1203.4 governs expungements, which I handle in my practice. So long as you are not on probation nor being charged with any new offenses (misdemeanors or felonies), you are eligible. To get the record sealed, a noticed motion would need to be brought. I have been quite successful in helping people clean their old criminal records, so it does not follow them around forever.

    Please note that even with an expungement, there are exceptions where the conviction would need to be revealed/disclosed in response to questioning. One is if you decide to run for public office and another is contracting with the State Lottery.

    Hopefully, this helps. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    Were you convicted of a misdemeanor?Yes you can have a misdemeanor or felony expunged under PC 1203.4 and some felonies are reducible to misdemeanors under PC 17(b) and then expunged Google California Penal Code. It will be good practice for you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    The English Law Firm
    The English Law Firm | Robert English
    You can have it expunged if you successfully completed probation. However, you would still likely have to disclose it on your moral character evaluation when you apply for bar admission.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    As long as you have successfully completed probation, a lawyer can petition the court to have the conviction expunged.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/15/2010
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