Maria Mendez was a mix of emotion when her verdict was overturned. The great grandmother had just served 11 years in California state prison for a crime that she did not commit.

Conviction Overturned After 11 Years in Prison

Mendez was accused 11 years prior of killing her grandson, Emmanuel. The boy had died after experiencing massive brain swelling. During the original trial, a doctor and coroner testified that his injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

But 11 years later, Attorney Brian Hennigan, of Hueston Henningan LLP, and Loyola’s Project for the Innocent (LPI) dug deep into the original evidence and found that numerous things had not been presented to the jurors in the original case.

“She was going to wind up, at the age of 64, likely dying in prison,” said Hennigan. “There just seemed to be very little, in the way of medical evidence, from the very beginning,” Mitchell said.

After scanning through hours of testimony, the lawyers discovered that the jury had not been shown the results of two CT scans taken right after Emmanuel was hospitalized. The scans showed the little boy did not actually have massive brain swelling. In fact, the autopsy photos, which had also not been shown to the jurors, revealed evidence that the little boy most likely died from injuries he suffered in a fall that had happened two days prior to his hospitalization.

“The fact that anybody is convicted under those circumstances, frankly overall, is a bit of a red flag,” said Adam Grant, the program director at LPI.

“I can feel the air outside, I can see the birds, I can see the sun when it rises, I feel so happy to be outside,” she said in Spanish. “Right now I don’t want to think about those sad days, because I feel bad.”

Since the ruling, Mendez has retuned to Mexico to be reunited with her family.

Wrongly Accused

When someone is accused of a homicide offense, it is easy for community members to rush to judgment. Often times the rights of the defendant are ignored in favor of wanting “swift justice.” As any defendant wrongly convicted of a crime can say, swift justice that denies the defendant a fair trial is no justice at all.

If you, a family member, or friend is charged with a homicide offense, you need immediate, experienced, and zealous legal advocacy.

If you have been living through the consequences of committing a crime, and are wondering how you will ever be able to move forward, you’ll want to know what steps are required to expunge your criminal record. As always, it’s advised that you work with a criminal defense attorney that can advise you on your specific situation.

How to Expunge a Criminal Record

While it is not an option available to most, many adult criminal records are able to be sealed or “expunged.” Expungement means that records are either destroyed, erased, or sealed so that arrests and convictions are no longer part of a public record. When records or sealed or expunged, that means you are able to declare “no” when you are asked if you have a criminal history.

When a record is sealed or expunged, it’s as though the crime never occurred. Because of this, you are able to legally say you were never charged or convicted of a crime. In most states, when an arrest or conviction has been expunged, it does not be disclosed to potential employers, landlords, or anyone else that might ask for criminal records.

Is Your Record Eligible for Expungement?

Because an expungement is an opportunity for a fresh start, you should take advantage of it and take action to see if your record qualifies. Most expungement procedures depend on the following factors:

  • whether or not you were actually convicted of a crime
  • what the severity of the crime was that you were convicted for
  • how long it has been since you were arrested or convicted
  • whether or not you successfully completed the terms your sentence, probation, or diversion program, and
  • whether or not you have been convicted of previous crimes.

Typically a court will not allow for the expungement of a very serious crime such as a violent felony or a sex offense.

Because state laws vary in regards to which conviction and arrest records can be expunged, you’ll want to work with a criminal defense attorney that is knowledgeable about your states specific laws.

California “Dismissal”

In California, the process of expunging a criminal record is called “dismissal,” due to the fact that the case is legally reopened and the criminal conviction is then dismissed.

While you might not be eligible for a clearing of your criminal record, there are other options that are available to help you move forward with your life.

Option of Certificate of Rehabilitation

In California, there are many who, because of criminal mistakes they made years ago, can’t get a job, move on with their lives, or escape damaged reputations, even though they’ve served their time. For some people, one avenue of the record-clearing process, known as a California Certificate of Rehabilitation is the answer. Though it doesn’t erase an individual’s criminal record, it is a court order that states that an individual’s criminal history is a thing of the past. This Certificate is a declaration by the state telling society that the former criminal has moved on to become an honest, upstanding “rehabilitated” member of the community.

A California Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court finding that can go a long way in helping you secure better employment prospects and professional licensing. In some instances, it may also end sex offender registration requirements.

California Penal Code sections 4852.01 – 4852.21 regulate how and to whom these Certificates may be issued.

File a Petition

In order to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, a petition must be filed with the California Superior Court. The basic eligibility requirement is a “satisfactory period of rehabilitation,” which is a specified length of time you must be free from criminal activity. This period includes the five years that you were a California resident immediately prior to filing for your Certificate plus an additional two to five years depending on the specific crime you were convicted of. Consultation with a qualified criminal attorney will determine if you’ve met the time requirements as well as providing assistance in filing the petition which includes application forms, letters of character, and other relevant documents.

Upon receipt of the petition, the court will set a hearing date. If possible, meet with the agency that prosecuted you before the hearing so that you may try to gain their support. On average, it takes about 120 days from the time the motion is filed to the date of the hearing, although in can vary from county to county. At the hearing, you must present the most favorable evidence to convince the judge to grant your Certificate of Rehabilitation. The judge will almost always require that you personally attend the hearing.

Unlike a motion to seal and destroy arrest records, a Certificate of Rehabilitation applies to actual criminal convictions, not just arrests. Such a certificate does not erase the past, but it will restore some of the civil rights lost upon conviction. If granted, your Certificate of Rehabilitation becomes an automatic application for a Governor’s Pardon, the ultimate symbol of rehabilitation.

Why Work with a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Criminal defense attorneys are able to defend you in a way that you potentially could not. They have experience and a familiarity with the law to be able to forge the best criminal defense for you. Prior to filing, a district attorney’s office must consider whether to file the case as a felony or a misdemeanor. Often times, a criminal defense attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce or even eliminate vandalism charges before they’ve even been filed. If charges are filed, a criminal defense attorney will be able to argue for community service and graffiti cleanup duty or house arrest rather than a jail sentence.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

Criminal defense attorneys defend adults, juveniles, professionals, college students, military personnel, public employees, and anyone else who faces serious charges in state or federal court. Some of the charges we handle include:

  • Violent crimes from simple assault or weapons offenses to gang crimes, armed robbery, kidnapping or homicide
  • Sex offenses such as sexual assault, statutory rape or online solicitation of a minor
  • DUI, including implied consent, underage drunk driving violations, DUI and felony DUI
  • Drug crimes, including drug investigation, drug possession, distribution, cultivation, manufacturing and trafficking
  • Domestic violence, including spousal abuse or elder abuse
  • Juvenile defense, including misdemeanor property crimes, high school or college student crimes and serious felonies
  • Serious traffic violations such as reckless driving or driving without a license
  • Probation or parole problems, involving new charges or technical violations
  • Theft offenses, including felony or misdemeanor charges of larceny, robbery, grand theft, shoplifting, grand theft auto or burglary
  • Credit card fraud, including bank fraud, forgery or identity theft
  • White collar crimes, including money laundering, health care fraud, mortgage fraud, bank fraud embezzlement and Internet crimes
  • Federal crimes, including federal drug charges and federal fraud and white collar crimes charges

Working with the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman

If you have been arrested for any crime, you need to immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer like the ones at the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman. Based in Los Angeles, California, we defend clients against misdemeanor and felony crimes including sexual assault, drug possession, DUI, vandalism, and theft. Whether you are facing criminal charges, we are ready to provide the strong defense you require.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman