Historically, California Penal Code section 1203.4 provided an opportunity to receive a dismissal of a criminal conviction upon successful completion of court requirements. Without effective methods to fully enforce the benefits of this law, however, many people missed out on employment opportunities.
But don’t despair. If you have a past criminal conviction in California and have been denied employment because of it, recent legislation has significantly improved your chances of overcoming this barrier. Below is a synopsis of how California law is now required to be applied.
The majority of criminal convictions in California are now eligible for expungement review if the sentence did not include a state prison commitment. Criminal cases which included a sentence to city or county jail, including AB-109 realignment felonies, will generally be eligible for expungement consideration.
Some expungements will be mandatory if certain conditions are met. Other cases which require judicial discretionary approval, will be reviewed with “interests of justice” as the standard of proof.
Employers will no longer be allowed to ask applicants to disclose any information about a case which was expunged (subject to limited exceptions). Employers who intentionally violate this section can be charged with a misdemeanor crime, as well as subject themselves to substantial civil penalties.
Those people who successfully complete pretrial or post-trial diversion programs, or have their convictions judicially sealed, will have similar protections as those persons with expunged cases.
Labor Code section 432.2 prohibits non-government employers from requiring a polygraph test from prospective employees. This law discourages employers from attempting to obtain information not otherwise legally available to them.
Even if your case cannot be expunged, many government employers are still be prohibited from using your case against you when determining your qualifications. (Historically, government employers often used criminal history at the first level of evaluation. This approach is prohibited pursuant to Labor Code section 432.9.) California government employers are not be allowed to inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until after a determination is first made that the person has met minimum requirements of the job.
Thus, there are many limitations using criminal history against prospective employees.
Knowledge is power. Speak to a licensed attorney to understand the way the law can help you. Know your rights, learn your options about expungement and employment, and discover what opportunities await you!
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