Felony convictions in state court will be governed by the law of the particular court. So if you were convicted of a felony in California court, you need to research California law- even if you now live in another state. Felony record sealing and expungement have different meanings in different states. The requirements for eligibility, waiting periods, costs, and benefits all vary by state. So make sure any research that you do about felony expungement or setting aside is tailored to the state where your conviction occurred.
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All states require that you complete your sentence before you can have a felony sealed or expunged. This only make sense as you cannot be serving a sentence for a case that has no records. However, in many states, you may be able to shorten your sentence by asking the court to terminate your sentence early. This may make you immediately eligible for felony expungement or record sealing, at a minimum it may shorten the waiting period.
Each state determines what types of felonies can be expunged. It is rare that serious sex offenses that involve children can ever be expunged or sealed, though there may be other types of remedies such as a pardon or certificate of rehabilitation for felony sex offenses. Some states, like California, define eligibility largely based on the type of sentence. For instance, in California, you cannot have a felony conviction expunged if you went to prison. However, someone convicted of the same offense can have it expunged if they went County Jail. Check your state law to see what types of cases can be expunged and sealed.
Most states have a waiting period for felony expungement; however there are notable exceptions that include California, Arizona, and others. You want to pay attention to when the waiting period begins. In most cases, the waiting period to have a felony record expunged, vacated or set aside starts from the time you complete your sentence, probation or parole. However, there are exceptions.
Most states require a judge to approve a request to seal or expunge a felony. This means a motion or petition needs to be filed on the court and, in most cases, served upon the district attorney. The state, represented by the DA, can, in most cases, object to the felony expungement request. The judge has final say on whether a felony is sealed or expunged. It always best to be represented by an attorney at all stages of the process. Look for an attorney who specializes in expungement or record sealing. If you cannot afford an attorney and meet low-income requirements, you may wish to enlist the service of the public defender.