How Long Does a Felony Stay On Your Record in California

A felony can remain on your record for life in California. Some felonies qualify for expungement. Learn how to remove a felony conviction from your record in California.

Hand setting bird free out of a guarded fence

Peter Blair

October 27, 2022 09:00 AM

Generally, felony convictions remain on your record for life. However, you can petition the court and ask for the felony conviction to be expunged. Some felonies might qualify for expungement, but there are limitations.

When Can You File for a Felony Expungement in California?

You cannot file for expungement until you complete all terms of your criminal sentence. Typically, you must serve any period of incarceration ordered by the court and complete felony probation before filing for expungement.

Completing felony probation includes abiding by all the terms and conditions of probation. Probation terms often include, but are not limited to:

  • Performing community service
  • Abstaining from alcohol or drugs
  • Completed mandated therapy, counseling, or substance abuse programs
  • Mandatory drug and/or alcohol tests
  • Periodic meetings with a probation officer
  • Not committing any criminal offenses
  • Paying restitution to victims

If you violate any terms of your probation, you are not eligible for an expungement of your criminal record. You also cannot be currently serving time or be on probation for another criminal offense or having a criminal charge pending against you.

What Felony Charges Are Ineligible for Expungement?

Some felony charges are ineligible for expungement from your criminal record. Those charges include statutory rape and sexual offenses with a minor.

Also, you can only have criminal convictions expunged when you did not serve time in state prison. Because many felonies result in a state prison sentence, they are not eligible to be expunged and remain on your record for life.

What Happens to a Felony Conviction When It Is Expunged in California?

When you petition for expungement under California Penal Code §1203.4, your criminal record is “cleared” of the felony charge. You are released from the “penalties and disabilities” of the criminal conviction. However, the felony arrest is not wiped off your criminal history.

In California, an expungement removes the conviction, but not the arrest. When the court grants a petition for expungement, the court removes your guilty verdict or guilty plea from the record.

Instead, the judge changes the verdict to not guilty and dismisses the case. Therefore, it appears you were never convicted of the felony conviction. Therefore, you can truthfully answer no to a question asking if you have a felony conviction on your record.

Even though the felony arrest remains on your record, expunging a felony conviction can improve your life. Removing a felony conviction from your record can make finding a job, renting a home, and obtaining a professional license easier.

Some things cannot be changed by expunging a felony conviction. For example, you might not have all of your legal rights restored.

Also, the felony conviction might appear online in news articles and some websites that post criminal convictions. Therefore, someone might find the conviction if they search. However, the conviction does not show up on background checks, which makes your life much easier in many ways.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Felony Expungement?

You can complete the paperwork and file a petition for expungement without a lawyer. However, if you make mistakes or errors on the paperwork, your petition could be denied, and you would have paid the filing fee for nothing.

Also, the prosecutor might object to your request for expungement. Furthermore, the judge could question whether you are entitled to or deserve an expungement of a felony conviction. Therefore, you would need to be prepared to argue your case at a hearing.

Without legal experience or knowledge of the law, you might be unable to argue successfully for your felony to be expunged. Therefore, you would have wasted your time and money trying to remove the felony from your record.

Instead, you can talk with a criminal defense lawyer about expungement before you file any documents with the court. A lawyer can tell you if your felony charge is eligible for expungement. The attorney can also advise you of your chances of receiving an expungement based on your circumstances and the costs involved in trying to remove a felony from your record in California.

Peter Blair is the lead and founder attorney of Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers, a San Diego criminal defense law firm, he is known for being an aggressive litigator with integrity and grit. He has over 10 plus years of experience obtaining the best possible result for his clients. Contact Peter Blair today.

Phone: (619) 357-4977


Headline Image: istock/KeithBishop

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