On a warm night in August in 1987, our client, then 25 years old, was arrested on Figueroa Avenue just north of U.S.C. after stopping his car to speak with a woman he believed was a prostitute. She looked like a prostitute, after all, but she was a police officer decoy working as part of a prostitution sting operation.
Our client was driving home at the time and was bored. He was transported south to the 77th Street Precinct on Broadway Avenue where he was booked and released after signing a promise to appear in the Metropolitan Courthouse at 1945 S. Hill Street in Los Angeles about two months later.
The client appeared for his arraignment as promised and entered into a no contest plea to a charge of violating Penal Code § 647(b), also known as solicitation of prostitution. He did not understand there was a diversion program available to him and that he could have used the services of a court-appointed public defender to help him resolve the case without a 647(b) conviction to stigmatize him for many years into the future. After all, he had no familiarity with the criminal courts and he had no criminal history.
The terms of the plea bargain were that our client was sentenced to one year of summary probation, also known as informal probation. He had to enroll in and take class on AIDS and HIV, which in 1987, was not well understood. He also had to stay away from a certain area of Figueroa Avenue that was known to have high levels of prostitution activity.
Our client then successfully completed all terms of probation and probation ended with the passage of time in 1988.
Fast forward to 2021. Our client was now 59 years old. He had been self-employed for the last 24 years as a real estate agent in residential rental property in Southern California and New Mexico. However, he was interested in applying to work for the United States Postal Service.
He was aware that his application to work for the postal service might be denied due to this conviction, so he wanted it “expunged.” He also wanted to travel to Japan and was worried that he would be denied the right to travel there because his friend told him this could happen.
The client then called up Greg Hill & Associates and spoke with Greg about his 34-year-old conviction, his only conviction on his record. He explained that he wanted to work for the USPS and travel to Japan. Greg explained that he did not think the decades-old conviction would be a bar to either of his hopes because our office had represented clients with convictions for far worse crimes who worked for the postal service and who had traveled to Japan (one of our clients had a conviction for statutory rape and lived in Japan permanently).
Greg candidly stated that the client really did not need to spend the money on expungement, as such an old conviction was of no practical benefit. The client mentioned the advice of his friend, who was not an attorney.
However, the client insisted upon petitioning for dismissal under Penal Code § 1203.4 (“expungement”). Greg then asked the client if he was on probation for any other case, on parole or facing any pending charges. The client answered no to each question.
Greg then explained that expungement, as compared to sealing and destroying a police report and court file, did not erase the record of the case having been filed against him. Expungement only changed the last plea in the case back to “not guilty” and dismissed the case. It also allowed the client to legally answer “no” when asked if he had ever been convicted of a crime, at least insofar as this case. Greg also explained the exceptions to this legal fiction of answering “no.”
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates to prepare, file and serve the petition for dismissal, which included a supplemental memorandum of points and authorities and a declaration from the client explaining why he was seeking expungement of the conviction.
The judge in the Metropolitan Courthouse granted the petition, which made the client quite happy.
For more information about expungement, please click on the following articles: