Expunging Criminal Records

"Expunging" a criminal record is the process of asking the court to withdraw or set aside a past conviction in a criminal matter (whether the conviction resulted from a plea bargain or a trial verdict).   If the court grants a defendant's motion to expunge, the court enters a "not guilty" plea and the case is dismissed

Expungement can be exceptionally important since in most cases it permits a person to truthfully state that they have not suffered a criminal conviction if the question is asked as part of a job application, loan application or in certain other situations where disclosing a criminal conviction could be highly detrimental.

Expungement does, however, have certain limitations: 

  • Not all past criminal convictions qualify for expungement
  • Expungement does not "erase" a criminal conviction – the prior conviction (even though expunged) can still be used against the person in court
  • An expunged conviction must still be disclosed if directly asked in certain situations, such as in connection with an application for public office, for licensing by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery
  • Expungement does not apply to felony convictions where the defendant served a state prison sentence (but, as explained below, the defendant may be able to seek a Certificate of Rehabilitation).

If you or someone you care about is interested in expunging a past criminal conviction, the criminal defense attorneys at the Weinrieb Law Firm can help.  We can be reached twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at (818) 933-6555.


The standards for expunging a past conviction, and the timing of when a defendant can first request expungement, depend on whether the defendant received probation for the past conviction or served a full sentence.  Expungement is potentially available for:

Misdemeanor convictions where probation was granted;
Misdemeanor convictions where probation was denied and jail time imposed; and
Felony convictions where probation was granted instead of serving a state prison sentence.

Expungement is not available for felony convictions where a state prison sentence was imposed.  However, in those situations, a defendant may seek a Certificate of Rehabilitation, as discussed below.

  1. Expungement When Probation Was Granted (Misdemeanors and Felonies)

    A defendant who received probation as part of their past misdemeanor or felony conviction is entitled to expunge that past conviction if any of the following conditions are met (and as long as the past conviction is not one where expungement is specifically prohibited, such as certain sex crimes and most traffic crimes):
    • Defendant fulfilled all conditions of probation for the entire probationary period; or
    • Defendant was discharged from probation before its original termination date; or
    • The court determines that, even if neither of the first two conditions is met, expungement should be granted in the interest of justice.

  2. Expungement When Probation Was Denied And Defendant Served A Sentence (Misdemeanors Only)

A misdemeanor defendant who received a jail sentence and no probation for a past conviction is still entitled to expungement if they meet certain conditions.  Unfortunately, expungement is not available for past felony convictions if the defendant did not receive probation and served time in state prison. 

The conditions for expunging a past misdemeanor conviction where the defendant did not receive probation are:

  • One year has passed since the pronouncement of judgment; and
  • Defendant fully complied with the terms of the sentence; and
  • Defendant is not currently serving a sentence for, and is not charged with another offense; and
  • Defendant has lived an "honest and moral life" since the pronouncement of judgment.

Certificates of Rehabilitation (Applicable only to Felonies with a State Prison Sentence and Expunged Misdemeanor Sex Crimes)

A defendant convicted of a felony and sentenced to state prison cannot later have the conviction expunged.  However, the defendant may apply for a "Certificate of Rehabilitation", which is essentially the first step to a pardon by the Governor.  Certificates of Rehabilitation are also available for past convictions of certain misdemeanor sex crimes that have already been expunged.

A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court order declaring that a defendant released from prison or convicted of certain misdemeanor sex offenses has been rehabilitated.  If the court grants a defendant's request for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, it is then forwarded by the court to the Governor's Office as an application for pardon. 

Like an expungement, a Certificate of Rehabilitation can be exceptionally important to a person's career and personal life.  If a Certificate of Rehabilitation is granted, not only does it automatically become an application for pardon, but it will likely be considered favorably for anyone seeking to obtain any state license.  For persons convicted of certain sex crimes, a Certificate of Rehabilitation will relieve them from registering as a sex offender.

To qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation the following the conditions must be met:

  • Defendant served time in state prison for a felony conviction, or successfully expunged a misdemeanor conviction that requires sex offender registration pursuant to Penal Code section 290
  • Defendant has lived in California continuously for 3 years (for parolees) or 5 years (all other cases) before applying for the Certificate of Rehabilitation
  • Defendant presents a satisfactory period of rehabilitation starting from the date released from custody

Expungement of Felony "Wobblers" (crimes that can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies)

A defendant with a past felony conviction for a "wobbler" (a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony), can first ask the court to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17(b).  If this request is granted, the defendant can then seek to expunge the past conviction as a misdemeanor.

Contact Us

If you or someone you care about is facing criminal investigation or criminal charges of any type, or if they are interested in seeking expungement of a past criminal conviction, please contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Weinrieb Law Firm.  We can be reached twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at (818) 933-6555, or through the confidential and secure email form on the firm's website at www.VWattorneys.com.


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