In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a series about avoiding and cleaning up your California criminal record. First we will discuss the definition of a criminal record, and why having one can impact your life beyond the conviction.
What is a criminal record?
Your criminal record is more than just a record of your convictions. It also contains the information related to your identification and criminal history, including your name, date of birth, physical description, fingerprints, photographs, date of arrests, arresting agencies, booking numbers, charges, dispositions, and other similar data1.
There are three categories of crimes on a criminal record: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions2. A felony is a crime punishable by a sentence of 365 days or more in jail. A misdemeanor is punishable by a sentence of less than 365 days in jail. An infraction is usually a citation type offense often simply requiring the payment of a fine.
A criminal record can affect your life
It is important you avoid having a criminal history record. If you already have a criminal history record, there are ways to clean it up to minimize its future impact on your life.
Depending on the severity of the offense, having a criminal record may mean you are unable to:
- Obtain certain employment
- Hold a professional license (such as doctor, lawyer, teacher, banker, insurance agent, real estate agent, financial consultant, nurse, pilot, investigator, contractor, etc.)
- Join the military
- Obtain a bond
- Adopt a child
- Act as a guardian for a family member
- Possess a firearm
- Obtain a passport
Your criminal record may also haunt you if you are called to testify in a court case. And in some cases, you may be required to register as a sex, drug, arson, or gang offender due to your record.
Before you enter a plea
If you are currently being charged with a criminal offense in California, it’s important you understand that the decisions you make before you enter your plea will likely affect what is reported on your criminal record. In many cases, the consequences you face by having a criminal record can be the most significant consequences of your case.
You have much more leverage with the prosecutor and the judge before you enter a plea rather than after. You are in a much better position to negotiate a plea bargain (also called a disposition), which may allow you to:
- Avoid a conviction on your record entirely.
- Reduce a felony to a misdemeanor or a misdemeanor to an infraction.
- Avoid a “strike” conviction.
- Reduce the length of your probation.
- Negotiate for the court to agree in advance to reduce the severity of the offense after a certain length of time.
- A combination of the above.
If are facing charges, contact me at (530) 823-5400 to confidentially discuss your case, criminal record, and plea bargains.
- (Penal Code § 11105(a)(1)(A)
- (Penal Code § 16)