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Can a Domestic Violence Charge be Expunged in California?


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A judge signing an expungement petition in a domestic violence case

Domestic violence charges can be serious and if you are convicted, you will be facing some harsh penalties. If you were convicted of domestic violence, you may wonder whether you can somehow legally erase your criminal record. While expungement is an option for some criminal offense convictions, domestic violence is a complicated offense. An experienced criminal defense attorney will evaluate your needs to provide you with guidance in your case. It is helpful to understand the basics of expungement as it applies to California criminal convictions

What is Expungement?

To expunge means to erase or remove a criminal record. Expungement of a criminal record provides the record to be removed from public view. Expungement does not forgive any wrongdoing and is not a pardon. If you want to remove your record from view, you can request an expungement if you qualify. The court will review the matter and determine whether they will grant expungement on a case by case basis. Typically, if your record is expunged it is not viewable to the public, however, it may be available to view by law enforcement. Expungement of your record can help you with many issues such as obtaining a loan or apartment, attending school, and seeking employment. 

Domestic Violence Charges and Expungement

In general, many misdemeanor charges are eligible for expungement, including misdemeanor domestic violence charges. However, if the defendant has violated probation or in situations of repeat offenses, the judge may deny expungement. If the defendant is currently on probation for another crime, the court will not allow expungement. In addition, some domestic violence charges do not qualify for expungement. For instance, if the crime was a felony, it would first need to be reduced to a misdemeanor, if that is possible. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in California will review the details of your specific case and provide you with guidance on the matter. 

What Does it Mean to Seal a Conviction Record?

Sealing a criminal conviction record and expunging a record are similar but are not exactly the same. Generally, sealing a record means that the public will not be able to view it. It does not mean the record is gone; in fact it does still exist. The main goal of those seeking expungement is typically the sealing of a criminal record so that it does not affect your ability to seek employment, get an apartment, obtain a loan, or other instances that could apply. Therefore, it is in your best interest to request expungement when possible. 

How to Seek Expungement

Before you seek expungement it is critical that you determine whether you qualify for such a request. A skilled criminal defense attorney will review the details of your case and if you qualify, will assist you in filing a motion for a hearing. At the hearing, a sentencing judge will listen to the reasons that you need an expungement. If the reasons are compelling, they may grant expungement. However, keep in mind that the judge must be convinced that you have a real need for expungement. 

Expungement of domestic violence charges can be complex. To learn more about expungement contact our lawyers at Strongest Defense at (805) 477-0070 for a free initial consultation.