Criminal record expungement paperwork.

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

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A major concern and one of the first questions that someone who has been charged or convicted of a misdemeanor in the state of California has is in regard to how long a misdemeanor will stay on their record. As many people are likely aware, a misdemeanor on your record can have many negative impacts, including, but not limited to, negatively affecting employment opportunities. Simply stated, a misdemeanor conviction will stay on a person’s record for the rest of their life. With that said, an option people have to remove the misdemeanor from their record is more formerly known as expungement.

In this article, our team of experienced attorneys at Forward Law Group in California provides a detailed answer to “how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record in California?” We understand that for people who are facing a misdemeanor charge or have been convicted of a misdemeanor, getting accurate and straightforward information is essential. We begin the article by taking a closer look at misdemeanor charges and convictions before moving on to providing a detailed response to the question highlighted above. We finish the article by talking about background checks and expungements. As lawyers with years of experience with criminal defense in California, we have intentionally chosen these various topics to cover exactly what readers will likely want to know. Let’s begin! 

What is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a type of criminal offense that is more serious than an infraction, but less serious than a felony. Common examples of misdemeanor charges in California include petty theft, vandalism, driving under the influence, and domestic violence (with no serious injuries). For misdemeanor charges in the state, the maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Please note that these are general criteria, and in rare cases, heftier penalties can be imposed. Additionally, other penalties for misdemeanor convictions include court-ordered programs as well as probation. 

Misdemeanor Charge Versus Misdemeanor Conviction

Not all misdemeanor charges end up as misdemeanor convictions. Being charged with a misdemeanor in California essentially means that the government has formally accused you of committing a misdemeanor crime. Being convicted of a misdemeanor, on the other hand, means that a person is guilty of that crime by law. While this information is quite basic, it may be unfamiliar to people who lack any knowledge about the legal system. A person can be charged with a misdemeanor crime but the charges can ultimately be dismissed, meaning that they would not be convicted of the crime. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in California, getting the help of a skilled team of attorneys such as Forward Law Group can increase the likelihood that the charge will not result in a conviction. 

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

As mentioned in the introduction, a misdemeanor stays on a person’s record until they reach the age of 100–essentially, the conviction will stay on someone’s record permanently. As stated by the California Office of the Attorney General:

The DOJ is required by law to record summary arrest, detention, disposition, and personal identification information when submitted by a law enforcement agency or court of this state. The record retention policy of the Department is to maintain criminal history information until the subject reaches 100 years of age.

That said, there are many intricate–some may call tricky–details related to this, particularly around who can have access to this information and under what conditions. In the sections below, we dive deeper into criminal records in California, background checks, and misdemeanor expungement. 

Criminal Records in California

In California, under California Penal Code sections 11120 through 11127, individuals have the right to request their own criminal history record from the state government. Instructions on how to obtain your criminal record in California can be found here, courtesy of the California Office of the Attorney General. If you are unsure of what may be on your criminal record and want to check if whatever is listed is accurate, this can serve as a useful tool. 

Will a Misdemeanor Show Up on a Background Check?

Nowadays, virtually all jobs in California require a background check before a person is officially hired. As a result, if you have a misdemeanor conviction, it is important to understand what will show up on a background check. In California, criminal convictions will show up on an individual’s background check for seven years. As stated in California Civil Code Section 1786.18, an investigative consumer reporting agency may not make or furnish any investigative consumer report containing “records of arrest, indictment, information, misdemeanor complaint, or conviction of a crime that, from the date of disposition, release, or parole, antedate the report by more than seven years.” One important detail to note is that under California’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an employer must always receive a candidate’s written consent prior to conducting a criminal background check on them. 

Will a Charge with No Conviction Show Up on a Background Check?

Many people understand that a misdemeanor conviction will certainly show up on a background check, but are less certain about charges that do not result in a conviction. Arrests that did not lead to a conviction typically cannot be reported at all unless the arrest is pending. 

Expungements in California

For people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor in California, knowing that their conviction will show up on a background check and can potentially impact their chances for a job can be extremely stressful. Fortunately for people who are in these situations, one possibility is getting their criminal records expunged or sealed. Expungement is a type of post-conviction relief offered in California. As described by Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute:

To expunge means to destroy, obliterate, or strike out records or information in files, computers, and other depositories. A well-known example of this is the expungement of criminal records. The majority of states allow people to have their criminal records expunged, depending on the laws within the jurisdiction.

In California, as described in California Penal Code Section 1203, an expungement allows a person to withdraw their plea of no contest or guilty, and instead, re-enter a plea of not guilty and have the case dismissed. When a conviction is expunged, it does not need to be disclosed on job applications to potential employers or at any point before or after receiving a conditional offer of employment. 

Can Misdemeanors Be Expunged in California?

Yes, misdemeanor convictions in California can be expunged. In order to expunge a misdemeanor conviction, a person must have already completed all probation terms and requirements. If probation was not a penalty, then the person must wait one year from the date of conviction before beginning the expungement process. Additionally, the person must not have any other open or pending charges. While these are some of the main requirements to be eligible for expunging a misdemeanor conviction, other circumstantial factors may exist that a qualified attorney can guide you through. In addition, certain types of misdemeanors cannot be expunged. For example, misdemeanor convictions related to sex crimes committed against children can virtually never be expunged. For more details about getting your misdemeanor conviction expunged, call Forward Law Group today. Our attorneys can effectively handle expunging your misdemeanor conviction in a simple and straightforward manner, no matter how complicated your case may be. 

What is the Difference Between Expungement and Seal-and-Destroy?

While some people use these terms interchangeably, they are in fact two different processes. Sealing and destroying records is more related to arrest records and allows a person to legally state that they have not been arrested for a particular crime. A person can file to have their record sealed-and-destroyed if they:

  • were arrested but never had criminal charges filed against them
  • after an appeal, their conviction was overturned
  • had a case that was ultimately dismissed in court

If granted, all records of arrest (e.g. fingerprints, booking photos, police reports) will all be destroyed. 

How to Avoid a Misdemeanor Conviction

If you are currently facing a misdemeanor charge, your number one priority should be to get your charge dismissed so that you avoid a misdemeanor conviction. Getting convicted of a misdemeanor can not only result in an array of hefty penalties, but it can have long-term impacts on aspects such as employment and housing as well. As the saying goes, the best offense is a strong defense. One thing that you should strongly consider is securing the services of a skilled attorney that is experienced with criminal defense. 

Forward Law Group: Experienced in Criminal Defense 

At Forward Law Group, we are proud to offer criminal defense services to people living across California. Our team of attorneys has multiple years of experience in criminal defense and has successfully helped people throughout the state achieve the most desirable outcome for their criminal cases. We are committed to our clients and ensuring that they get back on track without major repercussions. Our lawyers will strategically develop a comprehensive plan to defend you against the charges you are facing and help you avoid a misdemeanor conviction. 

In the unfortunate case that you have already been convicted of a misdemeanor, our team of attorneys can help you get the conviction expunged so that you are not living with the constant worry of having the conviction show up on a background check. No matter your criminal defense needs, Forward Law Group is here to help you. Take the first step towards moving forward with your life after this difficult experience by contacting Forward Law Group today at (818) 471-8389. 

Wrapping Up and Final Thoughts

In this article, we have covered the common question of “how long does a misdemeanor stay on your record in California?” While we have learned that a misdemeanor will basically stay on your record permanently, many people can get their conviction expunged. As a result, they are better protected in cases such as during background checks by employers. While it is possible for a person to expunge a misdemeanor conviction on their own without a lawyer, the process can be time-consuming and confusing. Whether you need help getting a conviction expunged or are in need of criminal defense services, Forward Law Group is ready to serve you.