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Vacatur: Better than Expungement?

In California, one can have certain criminal convictions dismissed or “expunged” from one’s record, as we have written about before, but that does not delete the fact that they occurred – Expungement only gives relief from the criminal penalty.  Applicants for state licensure must still list the convictions, if asked.

Expungements have become very important to many people recently, as cannabis (marijuana) convictions can now be more easily expunged.  New fair chance laws have also indicated that people should have a second chance at a job or license.

But there is another recently added tool for folks to move forward without having a criminal history weigh them down – vacatur.

What is vacatur?  Quite simply, it VACATES the conviction.  Boom.  Didn’t happen.  The offense is deemed never to have occurred.  In 2017, the Legislature approved the use of vacatur for victims of human trafficking who have been convicted of a non-violent offense  – if a person was forced to commit prostitution, for example, while a victim of trafficking, that person can, within a reasonable time, request the court to vacate the conviction – even multiple convictions.

If court relief for a conviction is granted under Penal Code section 236.14, the conviction will be dismissed, the records sealed and set for destruction, and the requester will be able to state that he or she was not arrested or convicted for that now-vacated charge.

Given that state licensing agencies look long and hard at criminal histories before issuing a registration, license, or permit, if you have a conviction for a non-violent offense that was related to being a victim of human trafficking, getting that conviction vacated could open the door to a new career.

Contact Simas and Associates if your criminal record is impacting your professional license or if would like assistance in clearing your record.

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