What is an expungement and will it stop employers from seeing my conviction?
An “expungement” is a dismissal of the conviction after the conviction takes place. So, after all of your convictions are dismissed, you are legally allowed to say you have no convictions.
Expungement does not:
- give you back the right to have firearms.
- prevent the dismissed conviction from being used as a “prior” to increase punishment if you are prosecuted for another offense.
- prevent the U.S. government from considering the conviction for immigration purposes, with limited exceptions.
- change a requirement that you register as a sex offender.
- give you the right to drive if your driver’s license was taken away.
Who can see my convictions?
When your conviction is dismissed, it is not removed from your criminal record held by the California Department of Justice, but the record will show that your conviction was dismissed.
Many public employers will likely be able to see your conviction, but will also see that it has been expunged. These are jobs that are for the government or require a government-issued license, certificate permit, government contract, or security clearance. Non-government (private) employers for jobs that involve some work in hospitals, with children, or the elderly may also be able to see your conviction and whether it was expunged.
Rule of “thumb”: If you have to get fingerprinted (including your thumb) for the job, the employer will probably see your convictions and expungements. For these jobs, because the employer may see the convictions, some people find it helpful to mention the convictions and how their lives changed for the better if asked about their conviction history.
Most other private employers do background checks themselves or use a background check company. Those background checks generally cannot show dismissed misdemeanor convictions or convictions older than 7 years.
What can an employer do with my convictions?
Many public and private employers cannot hold an expunged conviction against you, even if they can see it. Many employers cannot even ask about your criminal record until after offering you a job. However, these rules do not apply to employers required by law to ask about your record or employers with less than 5 employees. Even if your conviction has not been dismissed, there are laws that may limit how an employer can consider your conviction.
If the employer is going to use information in your criminal record against you, they should usually give you a copy of the record and at least 5 business days to let them know about wrong information in the record, to give them information showing you are rehabilitated, or to provide other information showing why you should still be hired.
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