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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay On Your Record in California?

Having a criminal record can cause significant difficulties for a person in many aspects of their lives. One of the first questions people ask when facing a potential charge is how long a conviction will remain on their record.


This applies to misdemeanor convictions and charges. Like any other criminal convictions, these marks on a record are great cause for concern.


Knowing how long they stay on a record and what legal options there are to have them removed can help people prepare for their futures despite their criminal history.


Goss Law is a leading criminal defense firm in Sacramento, California, and an expert in misdemeanor convictions and expungement. They can also explain how to expunge misdemeanor california.


The following guide explains the ins and outs of misdemeanors in California, how long they stay on a person's record, and what options there are to have charges removed sooner.


What Is a Misdemeanor?

What Is a Misdemeanor?


Misdemeanors are criminal charges of mid-level severity. They are less serious than a felony conviction or charge- but more serious than an infraction. The general maximum penalty for a misdemeanor offense is $1,000 and one year in county jail.


There are some exceptional cases where higher penalties may apply. Charges can also lead to penalties of probation and participation in a court-ordered program.


Some examples of common misdemeanor charges include:


  • Vandalism

  • Petty theft

  • DUI (first offense, non-fatal)

  • Reckless driving (first offenses, non-fatal)

  • Domestic violence cases with no serious injuries

  • Simple assault

  • Trespassing


What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor Conviction and a Misdemeanor Charge?


It is important to understand the difference between a misdemeanor conviction and a misdemeanor charge- and the consequences of each.


A misdemeanor charge is when the government officially accuses a person of committing a misdemeanor offense. If the person is then formally found guilty of that criminal offense, it becomes a misdemeanor conviction.


Not every misdemeanor charge ends up as a conviction- especially with the intervention of an experienced and dedicated legal defense attorney.


A charge can be dismissed, meaning no official conviction exists. That said, the charge alone can have repercussions.


How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay On Your Record in California?


If a person receives a misdemeanor criminal conviction in California, it will remain on their criminal record until they are 100 years old. In other words, it is essentially permanent.


That said, the conditions of access to that information are somewhat complicated, and there are ways to shield a misdemeanor conviction from the public eye, depending on the circumstances.


What About Misdemeanor Charges?

Being charged with a misdemeanor crime is not the same as being convicted, as mentioned earlier. With a strong defense, it is possible to avoid a conviction altogether- and keep the charge off of a person's criminal record.


Unless an arrest is pending with a law enforcement agency, a misdemeanor charge with no conviction will not show up on a criminal record or background check in California. This is because the person was never found guilty.


That said, someone arrested for a misdemeanor offense will have an arrest record- even if they are not convicted. There are ways to have this record destroyed (see more below).


Do Misdemeanor Convictions or Charges Show Up on Criminal Background Checks?


Almost every job in California now requires a background check before an offer of employment. As such, it is crucial to understand what shows up, and for how long it is relevant.


Since misdemeanor charges are not official, they should not show up on background checks unless the arrest is pending. Convictions, however, will be found.


In California, a misdemeanor conviction shows up on a background check for seven years. Even if it shows up after this time, the California Civil Code prohibits an investigative consumer reporting agency from including the information in its report.


It is worth noting that written consent must be given before anyone can run a background check on a person for the purpose of employment opportunities. That said, refusal to provide this permission is likely to result in the loss of the job.


Understanding Criminal Record Expungements in California


Knowing a misdemeanor conviction will stay on a record for life (unless the convicted person lives past 100) can cause significant stress. In some cases, there is a solution.


Having criminal records expunged is one legal option for people convicted of misdemeanors, as long as certain criteria are met.


An expert criminal defense and expungement attorney can help guide people through the process and find the best options for their future.


Can a Misdemeanor be Expunged in California?

Misdemeanor expungement is possible under California law- but not immediately, and not for everyone.

Any probation terms must be completed before a person can submit an expungement request. If probation was not part of the penalty, at least one year must have passed since the conviction.


The person must be free from any pending charges or open cases to qualify for an expungement.

Additionally, some offenses are not eligible for expungement under virtually any circumstances.


One example of this is any kind of misdemeanor sexual assault conviction against a minor. DWI convictions are also very difficult to have expunged from criminal records.


What Is the California Expungement Process?

The California Penal Code describes expungement as removing a guilty or no contest plea after completing probation or other penalties and requirements and replacing it with a not guilty plea. As a result, the case is dismissed.


To have a misdemeanor conviction expunged, a person must first determine their eligibility. An expert in criminal law can help clear this up and discuss the available options.


Next, an official application is submitted to the court, and a hearing may be scheduled to discuss the case and why expungement should be granted.


If the request is successful, confirmation is provided, and the records will be cleared. It is important to note that law enforcement may still have access to some details, and any information online about the arrest will not be removed.


How Does Expungement Differ from Seal and Destroy?

Contrary to what some people think, seal and destroy is not the same as criminal record expungement. Seal and destroy refers predominantly to arrest records- which can contain details of a charge that never became a conviction.


A person can request to have their records sealed and destroyed in the following circumstances:


  • They were arrested on a misdemeanor charge but were never convicted of the crime.

  • Their conviction was overturned after an appeal.

  • The case was tried in court but was ultimately dismissed.


Once a person's record is sealed and destroyed, they can legally say they were not arrested for a crime, and all records- including police reports, photos, and fingerprints- will be destroyed and wiped from the system.


There is no further requirement to disclose information relating to the arrest in any job application or official document after this process is complete.


Avoiding Misdemeanor Convictions


The best way to avoid having a misdemeanor on a criminal record is to never let it get as far as an official conviction. If a person is accused of a misdemeanor offense by law enforcement agencies, they should secure expert legal defense as soon as possible.


Dismissing the charges should be the top priority for anyone facing a misdemeanor conviction. Even minor crimes can cause life-long complications for a person in their professional and personal life, and there is no guarantee any future appeal or request for expungement will succeed.


A criminal defense team fights to ensure a misdemeanor stays a charge, not a conviction. They will build a strong defense using all the evidence and legal platforms available to them to have a misdemeanor complaint dismissed.


If this happens, it is significantly easier to have the arrest records destroyed and maintain a clear criminal record- especially if it is a first offense. It also avoids the prospect of a jail sentence, financial penalty, and probation requirements.


Securing a great criminal defense attorney as soon as possible is crucial for anyone facing a potential misdemeanor conviction. For more information, locate a nearby Sacramento misdemeanor lawyer.


Work With a Leading Criminal Defense Attorney in Sacramento, California

Work With a Leading Criminal Defense Attorney in Sacramento, California


Goss Law is a leading defense firm based in Sacramento, California. The elite team has extensive experience and an exceptional track record of fighting for those accused of crimes- and helping secure expungement for those already convicted.


Working with a dedicated criminal defense lawyer from Goss Law gives defendants the best chance of keeping their records clean and restoring their prospects for the future.


If you are facing a misdemeanor conviction or have a charge you hope to expunge or seal, then don't hesitate to contact a team that cares.


Our experts believe everyone deserves the opportunity to have a strong defense- and to avoid the long-term worries that come with a misdemeanor conviction.


Reach out to the experts in California defense law today to arrange a free consultation to discuss your case.


Don't waste time when it comes to your life. Speak to a professional at Goss Law today.

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