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Felony convictions can have devastating consequences for those who suffered such convictions even in the distant past. While Penal Code section 1203.4(a) permits “expungement”, or a dismissal, of a felony charge if the defendant completed probation and was not sentenced to State Prison, the felony stigma and status of the prior conviction still stands to deny a litany of the individual’s civil rights. For this reason, a party who had an applicable felony “expunged” under Penal Code section 1203.4 may still desire to have the “dismissed” conviction reduced to a misdemeanor to restore those civil rights. However, prosecutors have sought to use the fact of a “dismissal” to attempt to deny a defendant such opportunity to reduce the matter to a misdemeanor to restore these rights.

The California Court of Appeals for the Fifth District considered the exact question as to whether an “expungement” under Penal Code section 1203.4(a) precludes a Court from thereafter reducing the expunged conviction to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17(b)(3).  See Meyer v. Superior Court (1966) 247 Cal.App.2d 133, 140. Upon consideration of the issue, the Court ruled that Penal Code section 1203.4(a) relief does not preclude the reduction of the charge thereafter to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17(b)(3).  See Id.

In Meyer, the trial court had denied an application pursuant to section 17, subdivision (b)(3), to declare a felony conviction for writing checks drawn on insufficient funds (Penal Code section 476(a)) a misdemeanor, ruling it lacked the power to do so. (Meyer, supra, 247 Cal.App.2d at 136.) The Meyer court ordered a peremptory writ of mandate requiring the superior court to hear the motion on its merits, concluding dismissal of charges under section 1203.4 did not preclude relief under section 17:

The expungement of the record under section 1203.4 is also a reward for good conduct and has never been treated as obliterating the fact that the defendant has been convicted of a felony. . . . [¶] Therefore, a conviction which has been expunged still exists for limited purposes, including, among others, evidentiary use at a later trial [citation] and the denial of the right to carry a concealable weapon [citation]. Consequently, petitioner should not be barred from pursuing a more suitable remedy, particularly where the final decision as to whether he is worthy rests within the sound discretion of the superior court.

Id. at 140.

Thus, the Court determined that Penal Code section 1203.4(a) relief does not operate a bar to further restorative relief related to the action.

The reasoning of the Meyer Court applies to all cases in which the prosecution may seek to deny a defendant attempting to reduce an old , “expunged” conviction to a misdemeanor in an effort to restore civil rights. If you or a loved one is still being denied civil rights based on a felony conviction sustained in the past that did not result in a State Prison commitment, you should consult an experienced law firm to assist you in restoring these rights, even if you previously received an “expungement” of your record under Penal Code section 1203.4.

Call Honeychurch Law today at 707-429-3111, for a free consultation to determine how we may be able to assist you in your goal of reattaining the rights you have been stripped of as a result of a previous felony conviction.


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