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People V Barraza - Is Penal Code § 1203.4 the Only Option for Record Clearing in CA?

People v. Barraza
California Court of Appeals, First District, Division Two
November 16, 1994

Holding: A defendant’s only avenue for post conviction relief to have his conviction dismissed lies solely under Penal Code section 1203.4.

Why This Case is Important: Defendants who seek post conviction relief must do so under Penal Code section 1203.4. This is the only type of relief from the consequences of a criminal conviction available to a defendant that has been placed on and has in some way completed probation. Section 1203.4 relief will allow the defendant to withdraw his plea of guilt, and will free him of certain penalties and disabilities that his conviction carries. Although this does not entirely free the defendant of his criminal record, it will open up future opportunities for him to take advantage of.

Section 1203.4 is statutory relief, granted by the California legislature. Accordingly, a defendant who wishes to obtain post conviction relief may do so under this statute.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case was convicted of the misdemeanor offense of carrying a loaded firearm. Because of the particular offense, the defendant faced deportation and a permanent bar from returning to the United States. In order to avoid the harsh consequences of the conviction, the district attorney attempted to stipulate to change the conviction of misdemeanor possession of a loaded firearm to assault by means of force.

The court determined that there was no authority to take away the defendant’s conviction and substitute it for another. The court held that the only type of authority for post conviction relief was granted by the California State legislature under Penal Code section 1203.4. Because the defendant did not seek relief under the appropriate statute, then the requested relief could not be granted.

It is important to note that although the court recognized that section 1203.4 was a type of post conviction relief that could have been granted, it was not sure as to what effect such relief would have upon the deportation of the defendant. The court did not make a ruling on such a matter, and only discussed section 1203.4 for the sole purpose of recognizing that the statute was the only post conviction relief that the defendant could have sought.

Key Language: Section 1203.4 is pertinent because it is the only post conviction relief from the consequences of a valid criminal conviction available to a defendant under our law.

Expert Advise: “California Penal Code section 1203.4 gives the defendant his only means of post conviction relief. Having your criminal record dismissed under 1203.4 has many benefits such as better paying jobs, better quality housing, and easier access to loans. The law is constantly evolving and it is important for defendants who seek relief to take advantage of the post conviction rewards of section 1203.4.” Attorney Mathew Higbee

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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