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10. Expunge a Mendocino DUI

What is an Expungement

If you successfully completed probation and you are not currently serving any sentence, on probation, or being charged with any crime at this time, then upon successful application to the court where your prior conviction was entered, that court may vacate your guilty plea or verdict, enter a plea of not guilty, and dismiss your case. Thereafter, in most situations you may legally say it never happened. The purpose is to allow people to move on with their lives, particularly in the employment context, without forever being required to disclose past mistakes.

Click here to see the law used for typical DUI expungements: Penal Code Section 1203.4. If you are interested in reading a court case which describes in detail the different kinds of expungements available to most people, click the case at the end of this sentence and scroll down to the section of the case subtitled "General Principles Applicable to Dismissal of a Charge Under Penal Code Section 1203.4" People v. Holman (4th Dist. 2013).

Expungement PetitionOnce your court probation is completed in Mendocino County, and as long as you are not on probation in any other case, you may ask your Mendocino County DUI attorney to file an expungement petition in Ukiah so that you can intentionally, legally, fail to disclose this conviction on a future application for employment in the private sector. Even government jobs and state licensing boards or other situations where disclosure might still be required will, nevertheless, almost always view a successful expungement as helpful, court-approved evidence of rehabilitation, and a respectful final outcome.

As you can see below, an expungement has limitations, so be sure to ask a Mendocino DUI attorney before relying on this procedure to "erase" a DUI conviction, or "get it off your record," but nevertheless the results of a successful expungement can be extremely beneficial. Situations can arise unexpectedly which could have benefited from a properly submitted and executed expungement; it is well worth a reasonable fee even if you do not see the need at this moment. Discount national on-line services have been known to charge as little as $495, but dependable quality from local Mendocino DUI lawyers typically range from $800 to $1500.

Benefits And Limitations Of Expungements

Benefits. An expungement of a Mendocino County DUI will result in the dismissal of the case which was expunged and allow you to answer that you have not been convicted of that DUI on applications for most non-government jobs (or jobs not requiring security clearances or government-issued licenses, certificates or permits). In addition, an expungement will prevent the conviction from being used to challenge your credibility if you testify as a witness in someone else's court case. In felony cases, an expungement is also the first step to obtain a pardon.

The best Mendocino DUI lawyers can tell you that on September 28, 2014, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 2396, which added language to Business & Professions Code Section 480 prohibiting a professional licensing board within the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) from denying a license for an individual based solely on a conviction which has been expunged under Penal Code Section 1203.4. Although typically disclosure of a qualifying conviction is still required, nevertheless DCA Licensing Boards are prohibited from using just an expunged conviction as the sole basis to deny a license in many professions, such as Accountants, Barbers and Cosmetologists, Contractors, Dentists, Engineers, Nurses, Pharmacists, Psychologists, Real Estate Agents and many more. Note that a DCA board might still try to use the underlying conduct of a case, or other arguably bad conduct together with a conviction, to deny a license in a particular case, but it should be apparent that an expungement may very well facilitate a professional license for many people in many professions.

Limitations. A good Ukiah DUI attorney will tell you that an expungement of a Mendocino County case will not erase or remove the conviction from your criminal history records, or seal or destroy those records, at the state or federal level. Rather those criminal records will show a new entry that the case was dismissed pursuant to the expungement law listed above. See example New Criminal Record Entry. An expungement will not prevent a Mendocino County conviction from being used as a prior offense to increase the severity of punishment in a new case. An expungement will not prevent the conviction from being used to challenge your own credibility if you have a subsequent offense. An expungement will not prevent the conviction from being considered in government licensing, certification or permitting matters. An expungement will not prevent the conviction from being considered in immigration proceedings. An expungement will not eliminate sex offender registration requirements. An expungement will not reinstate an ex-felon's right to possess firearms (although a reduction to a misdemeanor first by a Ukiah judge may accomplish this in certain cases). Finally, a good Mendocino DUI lawyer should caution you that a Mendocino DUI expungement does not change the appearance of, or delete any information from California DMV records, or otherwise alter or affect driving history or DMV reporting, on the DMV's separate and independent driving record history. A Mendocino DUI expungement also does not automatically permit entry into Canada if such entry is otherwise barred or restricted.

Because an expungement of a Mendocino County DUI will not seal or otherwise remove the court file from public access, it is important to understand that anyone who is persistent, skilled, or knows where to look, will likely find the file or case information. This is especially true in light of the prevalence of excellent internet search engines and services (free and fee-based) which may always be able to produce court and media records of arrests and convictions.

However, Mendocino County DUI lawyers will agree, and so it is worth repeating, that even if such records may be found, or if disclosure of an expunged conviction is required, or if use of an expunged conviction is still permitted in certain situations, nonetheless the fact that you obtained an expungement from a Ukiah judge is typically viewed as the proper and best means of securing an officially-stamped acknowledgement of rehabilitation and a respectful final outcome which should reduce the weight and significance of the conviction in many contexts. Unexpected situations may arise which could have benefited from a properly completed and submitted Mendocino County DUI expungement; it is well worth a reasonable fee for a Mendocino DUI lawyer to properly accomplish an expungement for you even if you do not see the need at this moment.

For more information on what an employer may ask prospective job applicants and employees regarding past criminal arrests and convictions, including past, pending, and expunged Mendocino DUIs, see our Mendocino DUI lawyer discussion here: Background Checks and Job Applications.

Research Your Case and Other Supporting Documentation

If you choose, you can accomplish the initial work yourself, by obtaining a court "docket" history of your case(s) from the Mendocino County criminal court clerk's office.

Fill out an official expungement form; click on the links below and fill out the forms and send them together with your docket(s) to a Ukiah DUI lawyer such as Jake to review, comment and process it through the legal system for you. If you are doing this yourself without a Mendocino DUI attorney helping you, then you would well-advised to at least consult with a lawyer after carefully reviewing and preparing the proper forms described in this discussion, and before submitting the completed forms to the court at the location described above.

In addition, as you will see below, the law now requires that you appeal to the judge's sense of justice in the petition for expungement of a past DUI. Therefore a good Mendocino County DUI lawyer will ask you to write a brief description of the facts and circumstances of the conviction, any explanations surrounding unsuccessful periods of probation, and a short detailed account of your life from the date of conviction to present day. You can also begin the process of collecting any evidence of rehabilitation in the community by making copies of diplomas, church letters, employment references, evidence of charitable accomplishments, and letters of recommendation from friends and community leaders, etc. An additional important element of any good petition is an explanation and any evidence of substantial hardship created by the conviction(s) sought to be expunged.

The goal is for you and your Mendocino DUI attorney to present a compelling series of facts and arguments for granting you relief from the effects of a past mistake by showing you are reformed and you have become an outstanding and/or respectable contributor in society, but the conviction continues to create a hardship from which you wish to be relieved. The best Mendocino County DUI attorneys will place your personal statement into a declaration (see form link below), attach any letters and evidence, and submit everything, including the Petition for Expungement and an unsigned form of Order, to the court for processing and ultimate decision.

Use a Local Attorney

DUI Lawyers Understand Legal Forms and Procedure. If you don't know the information requested in the forms, you can have a local Mendocino County DUI lawyer research and process the forms on your behalf. In addition, hiring a Mendocino County DUI defense attorney may be necessary to successfully challenge a court's routine denial of expungement if the Mendocino County District Attorney's office continues to automatically "reject" DUI expungement petitions as that office has done in the past.

Mendocino DUI Lawyers Understand How DUI Expungements are Different. You know you have the right Mendocino DUI lawyer when he/she can properly articulate and explain to you that the expungement laws changed in 2008 to eliminate the absolute right to expungements in DUI cases (and certain other driving offenses listed in VC 12810(a)-(e)), so that a court is required to use its discretion to grant expungement petitions only in the interests of justice (see, PC 1203.4(c)), as opposed to before the law changed when most DUI petitioners who successfully completed their term of probation had an absolute right to have the petition granted. A Ukiah DUI attorney with a working understanding of this change in the law may be a great advantage to properly presenting your history and current situation to the Mendocino County Superior Court, in order to effectively appeal to a judge's sense of justice and obtain for you this valuable closure.

Typically There is Only One Chance to Get it Right. Mendocino DUI lawyers understand that courts usually will not allow individuals to keep trying to get it right. If an expungement petition is denied by the Mendocino County Superior Court, then it is unlikely the court will receive a new petition attempting to correct or add information, unless changed circumstances can be shown in a later petition. Therefore it is critical that a Petition for Expungement be properly submitted the very first time, when the chances of success are greatest.

Most expungements take approximately one week for a good Mendocino DUI attorney to process, and once submitted, up to 12 weeks or more for Mendocino County courts to review and approve. Click here for the fillable forms: Petition For Dismissal ("Expungement"), Order For Dismissal, and Declaration Form.

Sealing Juvenile Record

Many people don't know that a juvenile criminal record (including a Mendocino County DUI conviction obtained as a juvenile (arrested while under 18 years old), may not have been automatically sealed, but such conviction records can be sealed so that they are not available to the public, and cannot be used by a prosecutor to increase your sentence in a new case. Ukiah DUI lawyers have seen new Mendocino County DUI cases with significantly increased penalty exposure due to past juvenile Mendocino County DUIs and under-21 DUIs which were never sealed. For more information about sealing a Mendocino County DUI suffered as a juvenile, or sealing other juvenile offenses, contact the Mendocino County Juvenile Court, and see a general description on the Official California Courts website, Sealing Juvenile Records. Discuss your unique case with a Mendocino DUI attorney before deciding on a course of action.

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Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, North Bay resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of North Bay DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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Dave Jake Schwartz