California’s domestic violence crimes fall under three categories: Misdemeanors, felonies and what are known as “wobblers.” Misdemeanors are crimes that are punishable by fines and/or up to one year in a county jail. Felonies are crimes that are punishable by fines and/or incarceration in a state prison. Wobblers are crimes that, depending on the circumstances that surrounded the alleged incident, may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. The expungement of a domestic abuse conviction is possible but will depend on how the crime was charged.
Expungement refers to the cleansing of one’s criminal record. It is a process by which one’s court file is sealed and it allows an individual to honestly claim, under most circumstances, that he or she has never been convicted of a crime. Expungement is most helpful to individuals who are seeking employment, housing, higher education and simply peace of mind.
Persons convicted of Domestic Violence offenses, whether they were sentenced as misdemeanors or as felonies without prison time, are entitled to an expungement. If probation was granted in a misdemeanor conviction or in a felony conviction where a prison sentence was not imposed, the individual may be entitled to withdraw his or her plea of “Guilty” or “No Contest” and enter a plea of “Not Guilty” or may have a “Guilty” verdict set aside if he or she was convicted following a trial. Either way, the court must dismiss the charge if the defendant’s probation was terminated early or if he or she fulfilled all of the probation terms, and is not serving a sentence for any other offense, on probation for any other offense or charged with any other offense. If, however, while on probation, the offender incurred a probation violation, the court may decide whether or not to dismiss the charge. For strategic reasons, a skilled criminal defense lawyer will first ask the court to reduce a felony conviction that is a “wobbler” to a misdemeanor before asking the court to dismiss the charge.
It should be noted that even if a conviction is expunged, there are certain times that it will still be relevant and/or must be disclosed. For example, an individual must still report his or her conviction if he or she is applying for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency or for contracting with the California State Lottery. In addition, expungement does not lift the requirement that a registered sex offender must remain registered for life or lift any firearm restrictions that were imposed upon conviction. Finally, if a person subsequently suffers another DV conviction, the prior conviction will still be used to increase the sentence in the pending case if the defendant is ultimately convicted.
An individual with a felony intimate partner violence conviction that resulted in a state prison sentence will seek relief through a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon. This certificate is applicable to an individual who has lived in California for at least three years and who leads an honest life, free from any additional criminal convictions for a specified period of time, depending on the intimate partner abuse crime that he or she committed. If granted, the certificate is forwarded by the court to the Governor and acts as an application for a pardon. A Governor’s Pardon will only be issued when an individual demonstrates that he or she is reformed and has become a useful, productive member of society.
Only a qualified criminal attorney should petition for expungement or for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon. The experienced attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm specialize in California domestic violence law and know all of the evidentiary issues, both pre-trial and post-conviction, that are applicable to this technical area of the law. For unparalleled assistance in cleansing one’s domestic abuse conviction, contact The Kavinoky Law Firm today for a free consultation.