Criminal Defense


Having a criminal record can make it difficult to get a job, find housing, or enroll and pay for education. An expungement, or “dismissal”, limits the amount of information shown on a background check and sometimes relieves some of the consequences of a conviction. An expungement does not completely erase your criminal record or act as if the case never happened. The process can take 1-4 months or longer, depending on the type of conviction and the courts.

You are eligible for an expungement if:

You are not currently serving a sentence, on probation, or charged with another offense.

You were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony and were granted formal or informal probation.

  • Probation was terminated or completed successfully.
  • Have remained law-abiding for at least a year.

You were convicted of a misdemeanor and denied probation or you were convicted of an infraction.

  • Have remained law-abiding for at least a year.

You were convicted of a felony and sent to local prison (a prison term served in county jail).

  • “Split” sentence: you must wait one year after completing your sentence before applying for a dismissal. The one year starts after you complete all of your mandatory supervision in the community.
  • “Straight” sentence: you must wait two years after completing your sentence before applying for a dismissal.

Arrest & Bench Warrants

A warrant for arrest is issued when there is probable cause to believe a crime has occurred. A bench warrant is issued when a person has failed to follow a court order.

A warrant for arrest should not be ignored. Arrest warrants can prevent obtaining employment, federal or state benefits, driving privileges, and safe travel without fear of arrest.

Most arrest warrants in California allow individuals to post bail on their warrant to ensure their appearance in court. Bail can only be posted after the person is arrested or surrendered to court for the initial appearance on the warrant.

If you think you have a San Diego warrant out for your arrest, check the San Diego County warrants database.

Under Investigation

If you believe you are under investigation for a crime, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney. Any statements and evidence that you provide may be used in court against you, so it is always best to consult with an attorney.

A subpoena is a court order directing the presence of persons or things in court. These should not be ignored, and you should contact an attorney for legal guidance if you are the subject of a subpoena.


Bail generally means the dollar amount fixed for an arrest or bench warrant for a defendant. An individual who has been arrested can post bail to be released from jail or to recall a warrant.

You should contact an attorney for specific legal advice on whether and when to post bail.

There are three ways to post bail: through a bail bond with the help of a bail bondsman, cash bail, or a property bond.

Probation Violation

The process of a probation violation begins with either the probation department or a prosecutor submitting a report to the court detailing exactly what they claim a defendant did or did not do in violation of the terms of probation.

The probation officer then submits to the judge a recommendation for the appropriate punishment, and an arrest warrant may be issued.

Formal (felony) probation requires the defendant to regularly report to the assigned probation officer. An informal (misdemeanor) probation does not require reporting to a probation officer but may require reporting to the court.

The violation hearing process has two or three parts: the initial hearing where the defendant is informed of the alleged violation, the second hearing where the violation is contested, and the third hearing where the court decides what punishment, if any, should be imposed.

A defendant has a right to legal counsel at every stage of the violation process.

Removal From the Gang Database

People’s Legal Services can help get your name removed from the database. The Gang Database is a shared criminal intelligence system used by law enforcement to store names of people they consider to be gang members or potential gang members. Carrying the mark of a potential gang member negatively affects other parts of one’s life, such as attempting to get a job and difficulties crossing international borders.

People have been misclassified as gang members or have reached a point where they are no longer affiliated with a gang lifestyle. Sometimes, people don’t even realize their name is in the database until it is too late. Furthermore, when a name is entered into the gang database, it is challenging to remove. PLS is here to assist in this turning point in your life.