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People V. Chandler - Determining California Record Clearing Eligibility

Part I: The Road to Expungement

People v. Holman
District Court of Appeals of California, Fourth District, Division Two
March 29, 2013

Holding: When determining whether a defendant may obtain relief under Penal Code section 1203.4, the court will consider three scenarios: (1) whether he has fulfilled the conditions of his probation for the entire period; (2) whether he has been discharged before the termination of the period of probation; and (3) in any case in which the court finds it is in the interests of justice that relief should be granted.

Why This Case is Important: This case gives a roadmap for how defendants may obtain relief under section 1203.4. There are three scenarios in which the court will grant relief: if all probation conditions are met in its entirety, if there is early discharge and termination of probation, and in the interests of justice. Although all three possibilities carry heavy support for expungement, the third avenue, pursuit of expungement in the interests of justice, is of particular importance.

Although a defendant ideally wishes to remain a law-abiding citizen throughout the probationary period, certain circumstances may arise in which makes it difficult to comply with all probationary terms. Although this prevents the defendant from obtaining entitled relief, section 1203.4 leaves open the opportunity for the defendant to prove that he is reformed by introducing evidence of rehabilitation. In doing so, the defendant may introduce his or her criminal history, character, and post-probation activity, in which case it would be in the court’s discretion to grant the requested relief.

A defendant therefore may pursue three courses of action in obtaining the rewards of section 1203.4.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case sought dismissal of her charges under section 1203.4. At the onset, the defendant struggled to comply with the terms of her probation. However, she eventually began to complete the terms of the rehabilitation program integrated into the terms of her probation. Upon graduating from her program, the court discharged and granted early termination of her probation. The defendant subsequently filed for relief under section 1203.4, which the trial court granted.

The court of appeals affirmed the decision of the court below. Noting the probation violations and revocations, the court of appeals held that the defendant in this case clearly did not fall under the first category. However, because the defendant obtained discharge and early termination of probation, the court of appeals affirmed that she fell into the second category of entitlement under section 1203.4. As a result, the court did not need to decide whether it would have been in the interests of justice to grant relief.

Key Language: “There are three circumstance in which a defendant may apply for relief under Penal Code section 1203.4: if, (a) he has fulfilled the conditions of his probation for the entire period; (b) he has been discharged before the termination of the period of probation; or (c) in any case in which a court, in its discretion and the interests of justice, determines he should be granted relief.”

Expert Advise: According to attorney Mathew Higbee, “This case is extremely useful because it clearly outlines how a defendant may obtain section 1203.4 relief. This appellate decision effectively supports a defendant’s argument that he is either entitled to relief, or should be granted relief in the interests of justice. Case law such as this is invaluable because it clearly defines the rule of law that courts and attorneys must follow, often becoming the cornerstone to the outcome of a case.”

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

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