Call Today - (510) 995-0000
Oct 03, 2021

How Long Will a Felony Stay on My Record in California?

You recently got charged with a felony crime, and now you’re wondering how long that felony is going to stay on your record if you are convicted. And, of course, you want to do everything in your power to try to fight the charges… you just don’t know where to start.

By finding out all about felonies in California and how long they’ll stay on your record, you can determine what next steps to take and whether or not it’s worth it to hire an Oakland criminal defense attorney.

What Is a Felony?

First of all, it’s important to learn the definition of a felony in California. The definition, according to state law, is a crime that carries of maximum sentence of more than one year in prison. The most severe punishment for a felony could be the death sentence, though there is currently a moratorium on the death penalty in the state.

Along with serving time in prison, a person convicted of a felony might be fined up to $10,000, or they may have to pay a fine instead of serving time. The convicted person could have to go on felony probation instead of going to prison for longer, and only have to go to county jail for up to one year.

Felony sentences are punished with low terms, middle terms, and high terms. For example, with first degree burglary, the low terms, middle terms, and high terms are two years, four years, or six years in a California state prison. In most cases, the defendant is going to receive the middle term, but they could be sentenced to the high term if there are aggravating factors involved. For instance, the defendant may have used a weapon. They may be sentenced to a low term if their involvement in a crime was marginal.

Other consequences for felony crimes could include having to register as a sex offender (if it was a sex crime), not being able to possess or own a gun for 10 years or perhaps even for life, and having your crime count towards the three strikes law in the state. Essentially, with the three strikes law, your prison sentence could be increased if you are convicted of a felony and have been previously convicted of a serious or violent felony. You also may not have a choice other than to go to prison (i.e., you might not be able to get probation instead).

Straight vs. Wobbler Felonies in California

There are “straight” felonies and “wobbler” felonies. A straight felony is a crime that can only be charged as a felony. A wobbler felony is a crime that could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

The prosecutor will decide whether a wobbler will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts surrounding the case as well as a defendant’s criminal history. If it’s charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant would go to county jail for up to a year, and if it’s charged as a felony, they would go to jail for up to three years.

Examples of straight felonies include murder, sale of a controlled substance, rape, and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Examples of wobbler felonies include domestic violence, sexual battery, vandalism, forgery, and assault with a deadly weapon.

What Is Felony Probation?

Another possibility is that the judge may say that a defendant only has to do felony probation for their sentencing. Instead of going to jail or prison, the defendant would be able to live their life according to the rules of the probation officer. While formal/felony probation could include up to one year in county jail, usually a defendant will not be required to do that.

Typically, felony probation is going to last up to two years for non-violent felonies, and up to three years if a crime involves more than $25,000. This would include crimes like embezzlement, grand theft, and false personification and cheats. A person on probation will need to do things like have a monthly meeting with their probation officer, partake in community service, attend individual or group therapy, pay their victims restitution, have their property or body searched with or without a warrant, and go through regular drug tested if the crime involves drugs.

If a defendant does not adhere to the rules of their probation, the consequences could be very negative. The judge may revoke probation, and then the defendant might have to serve the maximum amount of time for their crime in prison or jail.

How Long a Felony Will Stay on Your Record

Typically, a felony is going to stay on your criminal record, which is a list of your arrests and convictions, for the rest of your life. This can affect you in a number of different ways, which is why it’s critical to contact an experienced Oakland criminal defense attorney to fight your felony charges and hopefully get you off scot-free.

Who Can See Your Criminal Record?

Law enforcement professionals like cops and probation and parole officers are able to access your criminal record. A government employer may be able to access it when you’re applying for a specific job. Organizations that are agencies of the state, such as the one that oversees entrance to the bar exam, can see it, too. Employers and anyone else who is running your background check is able to access some of your records as well, but they might not specifically be able to see your “rap sheet.”

What Is Expungement?

Expungement means to destroy or completely erase a crime on your record. If you successfully expunge something from your criminal record, it’s as if it never happened. It is not the same as a pardon, which is forgiveness for your crime. Typically, state courts, not federal courts, handle expungements. Also, it will only erase the criminal record; it will not erase news reports or cause social media posts about a crime to disappear.

Can a Felony Charge Be Expunged?

Though it can be difficult, you may be able to expunge a felony or misdemeanor conviction from your record if you’ve completed the term of your probation, and you either served time in state prison but would have gone to county jail instead under the Realignment of Proposition 47, or you didn’t serve time in state prison for your conviction.

On a federal level, the courts will put out a court order for expungement if your felony record occurred because of a clerical error in the criminal justice system, or you experienced an unlawful conviction or arrest.

Keep in mind that because the punishment for felony convictions can involve state prison, you likely won’t be eligible for expungement. Some criminal offenses such as murder, arson, terrorism, oral copulation with a child, sodomy with a child, statutory rape, lewd acts with a child, assault with a deadly weapon that leads to a serious injury, capital offenses, and crimes with a punishment of life in prison cannot be expunged from your record.

It’s worth it to reach out to an Oakland criminal defense attorney to see if you can expunge your record. This is because if you don’t, it could have a negative impact on your life after you serve your time.

For instance, if you want to go to college, you won’t be able to access federal funding such as scholarships, and you may not be able to join professional organizations or obtain a professional license for your career following graduation. Additionally, it could be difficult to gain employment, which could lead to a number of issues, including not being able to secure proper housing or covering your basic expenses. It could also hurt your relationships with the people around you, who judge you based on the fact that you were convicted of a serious crime.

What to Do If You Are Arrested

If you get arrested, during the process, do not tell the cops anything other than your basic information such as your name. If they question you about the alleged crime, you don’t have to answer their questions. Simply tell them you need to speak to your lawyer because you are exercising your right to remain silent.

As soon as you can, write down all the details about your arrest, including how the cops acted. If they did not properly arrest and process you, then that could help you with your case.

Then, call your Oakland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not tell them everything over the phone while you’re still in county jail. Instead, wait until you get home and you can talk to your lawyer on a secure line.

If you don’t know any lawyers, then you can reach out to your friends and family members to help you find the number for one, as well as do your own research online. Look for an Oakland criminal defense attorney with ample experience working with defendants who are facing felony charges. Research their results on their website and look at other clients’ reviews to determine the right representation for you.

Can I Use the Court-Appointed Lawyer?

You will be given the option to use the court-appointed lawyer, since everyone who is arrested has the right to representation. While free representation sounds great, it has many drawbacks.

Specifically, these lawyers have a large caseload, and they will not be able to give your case the attention it deserves. They won’t be looking for ways to fight your charges like an Oakland criminal defense attorney you hire could.

You’re much more likely to experience a positive outcome if you spring for your own attorney instead. Though it costs money, it’s an important investment in your future. You can’t risk having your entire life ruined because of these criminal charges.

Best Practices to Consider

When you’re charged with a crime, you may have the option to post bail. Always call your Oakland criminal defense attorney prior to posting bail, because there may be a way out of it that you don’t yet know about.

Never discuss your charges or crime with anyone other than your attorney. Under all circumstances, never reach out to a victim of a crime. Doing these two things could greatly endanger your case and put you in a much worse position.

Keep a complete record of everything that happened with your arrest, in jail, and in the courtroom. The more details your attorney Oakland criminal defense attorney has, the stronger your case will be.

It’s also a good idea to follow your attorney’s lead and trust their opinion when it comes to plea deals vs. jury trials. They will know the right path to go down, whether it involves pleading guilty to one or all crimes to get a better plea deal or fighting charges all the way until the end with a jury trial. Of course, you’re able to let your lawyer know what you want as well. This is a partnership, and you shouldn’t feel intimidated to make a decision one way or another.

Contacting Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney Elliot Silver

Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney Elliot Silver has worked with a number of clients facing felony criminal charges, and now he’s ready to help you.

One client was being charged with a felony for possession of an AK-47, which was an illegal firearm. He may have had to serve felony time in custody. Instead, he contacted Elliot Silver, who was able to secure misdemeanor penalties as well as jail time for the defendant.

If you’ve been charged with a felony crime, don’t worry, because there is hope. You can always reach out to Oakland DUI defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at He is standing by and eager to help you with your felony case.

    100% Confidential