General Benefits of California Expungement
The possibility of expungement of many criminal offenses under California Penal Code Section 1203.4 offers many common benefits to all, including immigrants.
Here are the main such benefits that are sought through expungement:
- Putting the past behind you. When an offense is expunged from your record, it can no longer be brought up against you in most contexts, legally. This is a great personal comfort to those with past convictions but who have since reformed.
- A better career outlook. Although employers are not supposed to (with most jobs at least) discriminate based on prior criminal history in making new hires, everyone knows that a background check revealing past convictions hurts your chances of landing a good job. With past convictions expunged, you can legally say "no" to the question, "have you ever been convicted of a crime."
- Ability to hold state-issued professional licenses. While you must reveal expunged convictions in applying for state of California licenses, you are not disqualified from most licenses if your criminal conviction has been expunged. And most licensing boards tend not to hold a conviction against you if you completed probation and went through the expungement process.
- Ability to give credible testimony in court. Other than in a new charge brought against you personally, expungement removes the ability of attorneys to destroy the credibility of your testimony in court based on a past criminal conviction. If you ever are called upon to testify in behalf of a friend, family member, or someone else, this will matter very much.
Immigration Benefits of Expungement
Immigration policy is largely handled on a discretionary basis under federal law, which means that neither conviction of a crime nor expungement of a conviction will render the results absolutely certain.
That said, in practical terms, there are certain policies that immigration officials and agencies normally follow. These policies mean that certain egregious convictions can have serious immigration consequences and that an expungement will likely reverse that effect.
It is also true that if the court failed to notify you of possible immigration consequences of your conviction or plea deal, you might be able to argue for the conviction being "defective" so far as immigration issues are concerned. But that is a rare situation to begin with, and it would require a new court battle to challenge the conviction's applicability, which court battle you can't be sure you will win.
Thus, to avoid such consequences as deportation for an aggravated felony, being banned from reentering the U.S. for up to 5 years, being denied a renewal of your green card or other visa, and being denied approval for naturalization.
Undocumented immigrants especially could face removal proceedings for a serious criminal conviction, but even lawful permanent residents are not exempt. If the crime is deemed one of "moral turptitude," where utter disregard for the safety of others or extreme moral degradation are involved, immigration consequences will be more severe.
But note that grounds for inadmissibility and grounds of deportation are not always the same. That means that a conviction could leave an immigrant in the U.S. but unable to visit relatives in another country or to gain any further immigration benefits.
Conviction of a felony or highly aggravated DUI, of possession of a controlled substance (other than small amounts of marijuana), of domestic violence, child abuse, rape, murder, visa fraud, and certain other fraud crimes could lead to deportation. Petty theft, crimes committed while a minor and five or more years ago, smuggling in family members, and mere infractions are all unlikely to lead to deportation.
But, any misdemeanor or felony crime on your record can be an obstacle to immigration benefits and citizenship; expungement can remove that obstacle.
When Should an Immigrant Apply for an Expungement?
There are many situations where a non-citizen should pursue expungement. Those with a first-time conviction of a relatively minor offense will benefit most by getting that blot off of their record.
In the case of a first offense simple possession of a controlled substance, for example, expungement is essentially required to avoid deportation. But if you do get the crime expunged, the danger is most likely permanently gone.
Those qualifying under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans/Green Card Holders) can often avoid negative immigration consequences via expungement.
Most crimes are eligible for expungement if you completed your probation or qualified for early termination of your probationary period. In some cases, expungement is automatic as part of a plea agreement; while in other cases, it is fully at the judge's discretion.
Anyone with a criminal conviction on his or her record is in a worse position than without one; thus, while expungement may help some immigrants more than others, it is always a positive action.
Attorney Ross H. Sobel will be able to sort out the legal implications of your conviction and show you specifically how expungement of that conviction can benefit you.
Contact Us Today For Help
At the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel, we understand the special legal needs of immigrants of all sorts in Van Nuys, San Fernando, and throughout California.
Attorney Ross H. Sobel stands ready to guide you through the expungement process to remove potential problems that could lead to negative immigration consequences.
If you or someone you love are facing possible loss of or denial of an immigration benefit based on a criminal conviction, do not hesitate to call us anytime 24/7/365 at 818-582-2350 for a free legal consultation.