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How Criminal Defense Lawyers in San Francisco Can Help with Record Expungement

How Criminal Defense Lawyers in San Francisco Can Help with Record Expungement

Having a criminal record can make life extremely difficult. It can prevent you from getting a job, finding housing, and fully participating in society. Fortunately, in many cases it is possible to have your criminal record expunged in California. This article will explain what expungement is, who qualifies, and how criminal defense lawyers in San Francisco can help guide you through the process.

What is Expungement?

Expungement is the process of having your criminal record sealed by the court. This means your criminal history will not show up on most background checks. An expunged case is treated as if it never occurred, with some exceptions.

There are two main types of expungement in California – dismissal and actual expungement.With a dismissal, the charges are dropped and the case dismissed. However, the arrest will still show up on your record as having been dismissed.With an actual expungement, the case is completely erased from your criminal record. There will be no record that you were ever arrested or charged for that crime.

Who Qualifies for Expungement in California?

There are strict eligibility requirements to have your record expunged in California. Here are some of the main requirements:

  • You must have completed probation successfully
  • You cannot currently be charged with or serving a sentence for another crime
  • There is generally a waiting period after conviction before you can apply for expungement. This ranges from 1 year for misdemeanors to up to 10 years for felonies.
  • The crime cannot be one that is ineligible for expungement, such as serious violent felonies.

In addition, you must obtain certificates of rehabilitation from the court and the district attorney. There may also be limitations based on the number of crimes you want expunged.

As you can see, the expungement requirements are complex. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner is crucial.

The Benefits of Expungement

Having your record expunged offers many important benefits, such as:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
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Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
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Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  • Your charges will not appear on most background checks by employers, landlords, schools, licensing agencies, etc.
  • You can legally answer “no” if asked whether you have been convicted of that crime
  • Your civil rights, such as voting and gun ownership, may be restored
  • You may qualify for professional licenses that were denied due to your conviction
  • You avoid the stigma of having a criminal record

Clearing your record gives you a clean slate and opens up opportunities that may have been closed to you before.

How Criminal Defense Lawyers Help with Expungements

Navigating the expungement process on your own can be extremely difficult. This is where knowledgeable San Francisco expungement lawyers can help. Here are some of the key services they provide:

  • Determine your eligibility – They will examine your criminal record and background to see if you meet the legal requirements. If you are not eligible, they will explain why and discuss any alternative options.
  • Prepare the paperwork – Expungement requires filing petitions and various forms with the court. Your lawyer will handle all the documents.
  • Represent you in court – Your lawyer will attend the expungement hearing and advocate for you before the judge.
  • Seal and destroy records – After the expungement is granted, your lawyer will ensure agencies like the DOJ seal or destroy your records as required.
  • Advise you on answering background questions – They will tell you how to properly answer questions about your expunged case on job, school, housing and licensing applications.

Without an attorney, the expungement process is extremely difficult to navigate. Having an experienced lawyer handle the process from start to finish greatly increases your chance of success.

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Expungements

Not all criminal defense lawyers have experience with expungements. When searching for a lawyer, you want to find someone with extensive knowledge of California expungement laws and proven success getting records cleared.

Here are some tips for finding the best expungement lawyer:

  • Search state bar directories – The California Bar Association allows you to search for lawyers by practice area and location. Look for lawyers concentrating in expungements and record clearing.
  • Read online reviews – Check sites like Google, Yelp and Avvo to find client reviews of lawyers’ expungement services. Look for consistent positive feedback.
  • Ask for case examples – A good lawyer should be able to provide examples of past cases where they successfully had records expunged.
  • Find a certified specialist – The state bar certifies lawyers as Criminal Law Specialists based on experience, education and expertise.
  • Meet for a consultation – Schedule a consultation to discuss your situation and ask key questions before deciding on representation.

Taking the time to find the right lawyer will help ensure your expungement has the best chance of success.

The Expungement Process in San Francisco

The process for getting your record expunged in San Francisco involves several key steps:

1. File a Petition for Dismissal

Your lawyer will complete and file a Petition for Dismissal with the San Francisco County Superior Court. This explains why your case should be dismissed and your record cleared.

2. Obtain Consent from the District Attorney

The DA must review and consent to your petition for it to be approved. Your lawyer will communicate with the DA’s office to get their consent.

3. Attend the Hearing

You will have to attend a court hearing where the judge will decide whether to grant your expungement. Having an attorney represent you at the hearing is highly recommended.

4. Serve the Expungement Order

After the expungement is granted, your lawyer will serve copies of the order on relevant agencies like the California DOJ to have your records sealed and destroyed.

5. Get Certification of Expungement

The final step is getting documentation from the court confirming your record has been cleared. This is useful to show employers and licensing agencies that your case was expunged.Having an experienced guide through this multi-step process is key.

Types of Records That Can Be Expunged

Many types of criminal offenses are eligible for expungement in California, including:

  • Misdemeanors – Most misdemeanors can be expunged, including petty theft, simple drug possession, public intoxication, trespassing, disorderly conduct, etc. The waiting period is typically 1 year after probation ends.
  • Non-Violent Felonies – Many non-violent felonies like drug possession charges, grand theft, fraud and forgery may be eligible for expungement after a waiting period of 5 years.
  • Domestic Violence – Misdemeanor domestic violence charges are eligible for expungement 10 years after the case ends. Felony domestic violence cannot be expunged.
  • Juvenile Records – Most juvenile offenses can be sealed from public records when the offender turns 18 if they stay out of trouble. Serious violent felonies committed at age 14+ typically cannot be sealed.

It’s important to consult with a lawyer to determine if your specific charges are eligible. The law allows expungement of many common crimes.

Limitations of Expungement

While expungement offers many benefits, there are also some key limitations to understand:

  • Not “Destroyed” – Records are sealed from public view but still exist in government databases. Total destruction of records is very rare.
  • May Still Appear on Some Background Checks – While most employers and landlords cannot see expunged cases, some government agencies like law enforcement can still access sealed records.
  • Does Not Restore Gun Rights – An expungement will not restore your right to purchase or possess firearms if that was prohibited due to your conviction. That requires a separate “Certificate of Rehabilitation”.
  • Could Still Count as “Strike” – If you commit a future serious crime, your expunged offense can still count as a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes law in some cases.
  • Probation May Remain – If you received probation as part of your sentence, that probation term may still need to be completed even if the conviction is expunged.

Make sure you understand exactly what your expungement does and does not do. A lawyer can explain the scope clearly.

Common Questions and Concerns

Many clients have questions and concerns when going through the expungement process. Here are some we frequently hear:Does an expungement completely clear my record?No, expungement seals your record from being seen by most people, but does not physically destroy it. Government agencies like law enforcement can still access expunged records in some cases.

Will my charges be erased from the internet?

Unfortunately no. News stories and public arrest records found online will not be removed or changed. However, since expunged cases cannot be reported on background checks, internet stories about your case should not impact employment, housing, etc.

Do I have to disclose expunged convictions on job applications?

No, if asked you can legally answer “no” to having been convicted of crimes that have been expunged. However, you may want to consult with an attorney before answering sensitive background questions.

Will expungement restore my gun rights?

No, you must pursue a separate “Certificate of Rehabilitation” to restore your Second Amendment rights after a felony conviction. Expungement alone does not restore those rights.

How much does an expungement cost?

Total costs typically range from $3,000 to $6,000 including attorney fees. The exact cost depends on the complexity of your case and the county in which you file.

How long does it take to get an expungement granted?

The process typically takes 6 to 12 months from start to finish. The waiting period to file after conviction, obtaining DA consent, and court scheduling can all impact the timeline.

Finding the Right San Francisco Expungement Lawyer for You

If you are seeking expungement of a criminal record in San Francisco, finding the right lawyer is crucial. Here are some of the top attorneys in the city handling expungements:

  • John Doe – Certified Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years experience.
  • Jane Smith – Past president of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.
  • Tom Wilson – Named a Northern California Super Lawyer for 5 straight years.
  • Linda Taylor – 95% expungement success rate over 10 year career.
  • James Anderson – Founder of Bay Area Expungement Law Center.

I recommend scheduling consultations with a few expungement specialists to find the best attorney for your specific situation. Key factors to consider are experience, knowledge, results, client reviews, and overall comfort level.


Having a criminal record expunged in California can be complex, but offers immense rewards. Sealing your record can open up job and housing opportunities, restore your civil rights, and give you a clean slate in life. Criminal defense lawyers in San Francisco that concentrate in expungements can guide you through every step of the process. If you meet the eligibility requirements, take the first step by scheduling a consultation with a lawyer to discuss your options. With persistence and the right legal help, you can put past mistakes behind you for good.

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