California Expungement Law

Blogger, Darren Chaker
Darren Chaker, blogger, in Century City, Los Angeles.

California Penal Code section 1203.4, Darren Chaker writes, allows for expungement of a conviction. Pursuant to section 1203.4, subdivision (a), a probationer is entitled as a matter of right to have the plea or verdict changed to not guilty, to have the proceedings expunged from the record, and to have the accusations dismissed, if he or she has either (1) fulfilled the conditions of probation of the entire probationary period or, (2) been discharged prior to the termination of the probation period. (People v. Bradus (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 636, 641; People v. Lewis (2006) 146 Cal.App.4th 294, 297.) In other words, ‘”[i]f the petitioner establishes either of the necessary factual predicates, the trial court is required to grant the requested relief.’ ” (People v. Lewis, supra, 146 Cal.App.4th at p. 294, quoting People v. Hawley (1991) 228 Cal.App.3d 247, 249-250, italics original.)

In People v. Lewis, the court noted that:

It was apparently intended that when a defendant has satisfied the terms of probation, the trial court should have no discretion but to carry out its part of the bargain with the defendant.

(People v. Lewis, supra, 146 Cal.App.4th at p. 294; see In re Griffin (1967) 67 Cal.2d 343, 347, fn. 3 [“On application of a defendant who meets the requirements of section 1203.4 the court not only can but must proceed in accord with that statute.”].) The court also reiterated the concept that:

“ ‘The expunging of the record of conviction is, in essence, a form of legislatively authorized certification of complete rehabilitation based on a prescribed showing of exemplary conduct during the entire period of probation.’”

(People v. Lewis, supra, 146 Cal.App.4th at p. 294, quoting People v. Chandler (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 782, 788-789, quoting People v. Turner (1961) 193 Cal.App.2d. 243, 247; see People v. Field (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 1778, 1787 [relief under section 1203.4 is intended to reward an individual who successfully completes probation]; People v. Johnson (1955) 134 Cal.App.2d 140, 143 [“The obvious purpose is to secure law compliance through an attempt at helpful cooperation rather than by coercion or punishment.”].)

Section 1203.4, subdivision (a), also authorizes a trial court to grant relief in any case in which the court determines relief is proper “in its discretion and the interests of justice.” (See People v. Chandler, supra, 203 Cal.App.3d at p. 733, fn. 2, citing People v. Bulter (1980) 105 Cal.App. 3d 585, 587.) The court’s decision to grant or deny relief is discretionary in this third situation. (People v. Field, supra, 31 Cal.App.4th at p. 1786; People v. Bulter, supra, 105 Cal.App. 3d at p. 587.) Generally, the complaining party must establish “ ‘that the court exercised its discretion in an arbitrary, capricious or patently absurd manner …’ ” (See People v. Rodrigues (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1060, 1124-1125, quoting People v. Jordan (1986) 42 Cal.3d 308, 316; see also Denham v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, 566.) Put differently, an abuse of discretion occurs when an appellant can show that the lower court’s decision falls outside the bounds of reason. (See People v. Bradford (1997) 15 Cal.4th 1229, 1315; People v. Parmar (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 781, 792.).

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