Expungement is a civil action in which the petitioner or plaintiff – a first-time offender of a prior criminal conviction – asks the court to “seal” the records of that earlier process. An expungement proceeding makes the underlying criminal records unavailable through state or Federal repositories. These records are said, then, to be “expunged.” Here in California, expungement law permits a person convicted of a crime to petition the court to re-open the case, set aside the plea and dismiss the case. To qualify for expungement, a petitioner must have completed probation, paid all fines and restitution, not served a sentence in state prison for the offense, and not currently be charged with a crime. If these requirements are met, a court may grant the petition if it finds that it would be in the interest of justice to do so. Expungement is generally the process of “removing from general review” the records pertaining to a case, and never erases a person’s record. A person’s record will show the case was dismissed after conviction, and will still show you were charged and convicted and indicate how much time was served. If convicted of the same crime in the future, the expungement will be reversed and it will count against you. A successful expungement should not be confused with a pardon. An expungement will not erase the criminal record; instead, the finding of guilt will be changed to a dismissal. A person then can honestly and legally respond to a question about his criminal history that they have not been convicted of that crime. There are some exceptions. You still must disclose the expunged conviction in response to any direct question contained in any type of application for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery. However, the benefits of obtaining this relief far outweigh the exceptions.