Criminal records can prevent you from getting a good job, obtaining U.S. citizenship, obtaining state issued professional or commercial licenses, going into the military, and most importantly having peace of mind. With the age of the internet and easy access to criminal records, even your future in-laws can find out about your past criminal convictions.
But there is hope. Many tools are available to a criminal defense attorney in attacking your prior criminal record.
If you pled guilty to a criminal offense and at the time of your plea or sentencing a mistake was made by the prosecutor, judge or your defense attorney, you may be able to completely erase your conviction with a Motion to Vacate Judgement.
Many felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors with a Penal Code Section 17(b) motion.
Some misdemeanors can be reduced to infractions with a Penal Code Section 17(d) motion.
Your felony or misdemeanor conviction can be softened by gaining an Expungement. Here, after you have successfully completed probation a judge will allow you to withdraw your guilty plea and he or she will then dismiss the charge.
If you were arrested and no charges were filed you may be able to have your arrest record sealed and then destroyed with a Motion for Factual Innocence. This must be done within two years of your arrest.
If you must register as a sex offender and you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you may be able to terminate the registration requirement by gaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
Juvenile criminal records, except for the most serious ones, can be completely Sealed.
Finally you can apply for a Pardon from the governor, and if granted it will erase the effects of the conviction. These are difficult to obtain and are usually reserved for very old convictions.