San Francisco, CA, December 14, 2009 --(PR.com
)-- In November 2009, the California Employment Development Department reported that unemployment in California had reached a staggering 12.5%. That number, they reported, is the highest unemployment rate in 70 years. Therefore it is not surprising that unemployed people are doing whatever they can to shore up their resumes and improve their chances at landing a job.
Those with a criminal past face an additional hurdle to overcome, because when applicants fill out a job application, they are likely to be asked the daunting question:
Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense? Y__ N __
In the past, during the dot.com boom and real estate bubble economy, jobs in Northern California - particularly in San Francisco and San Jose - were plentiful, and employers seldom bothered to perform background checks. Those that did often overlooked minor criminal offenses such as old misdemeanors in order to hire otherwise qualified applicants. But in today’s economy, the lack of jobs means that an employee with a skeleton in his closet is likely to be passed by in favor of one with a clean criminal record.
Increased Access to Old Criminal Records
Another issue now affecting job applicants is the increased access to criminal records. Applicants who passed background checks several years ago may today be surprised to discover that access to criminal records databases has become virtually pervasive. A recent Wall Street Journal article, from Nov 11, 2009, cited an employer who dug up a 23 year old criminal conviction that had not previously been computerized. In years past, the applicant had passed background checks without a problem - and he assumed that he’d get away with it again.
What is an Expungement?
Luckily there are solutions to help people who face this issue. California has a law called expungement which is designed to give people who were convicted of a misdemeanor, but paid their debt to society, an opportunity to get a fresh start. The theory is that a person who has fulfilled the conditions of probation and has stayed out of trouble since, should not have to eternally bear a black mark on his or her permanent record.
The Wall Street Journal article mentioned above reported that, due to the economy, some US states are expunging up to 46% more convictions than they did in the previous year. Likewise, in San Jose and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, Summit Defense attorneys have received a rise in requests for expungements.
The California Expungement Law
There is confusion surrounding the mysterious process of expungement and the lawyers at Summit Defense Law Offices are often asked by their clients to explain the process and the benefits.
The actual text of the Expungement law is found in California Penal Code Section 1203.4.
The meaty portion of the law states the following:
“…If a court, in its discretion and the interests of justice, determines that a defendant should be granted the relief available under this section, the defendant shall…be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty.”
“…the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and except as noted below, he or she shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted.”
The real benefit to job seekers is codified in the California Code of Regulations, 2 CCR Section 7287.4 which explains that once a record is expunged, employers no longer have access to it.
“It is unlawful for an employer…to inquire or seek information regarding any applicant concerning…any conviction for which the record has been judicially ordered sealed, expunged, or statutorily eradicated…”
This is why expungement is the best remedy for people with a record who are looking for a job.
Expungement Process is Not Automatic
Many people incorrectly assume that expungement occurs automatically after a number of years have passed similar to how bad credit drops off of one’s report. However, according to Richard Weese, a San Jose Expungement
lawyer, this is not the case. Rather, people must apply for the process, petition the court for the relief and prove that they deserve the remedy.
Mr. Weese cautions that expungement isn’t available for all crimes and circumstances. The expungement process is designed for most misdemeanors, but can sometimes be extended to certain felonies in a two step process. Mr. Weese mentioned a particularly satisfying result saying, “I’ve gotten expungements granted in some difficult cases including a Santa Clara county felony that I was able to first bring down to misdemeanor.”
If you are a job seeker who’s looking for help accessing and cleaning San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco criminal records
, the attorneys at Summit Defense Law Offices can advise you how to get started with the expungement process.