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Understanding the Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction: How Long Will It Stay on Your Record?

misdemeanor conviction

If you’ve ever heard the adage, a stitch in time saves nine, you understand that fixing a problem early on may keep you from tackling a bigger problem further down the road. In the legal world, this is especially true when it comes to understanding the consequences of a misdemeanor conviction.

A single momentary lapse of judgment can haunt an individual for years and even decades. With reports accessible to prospective employers, landlords, lenders, and more, a criminal record can have lasting ramifications on one’s life.

This article explores the consequences of a misdemeanor conviction, how long it stays on your record in California, and your legal rights and options. Need more help? Reach out to our team of Bay Area criminal defense lawyers today.

What Is a Misdemeanor Offense in California?

A misdemeanor offense is like a shadow, creeping silently and slowly in the background of our lives. It hangs on us for years but never quite leaves us completely alone.

A misdemeanor conviction in California can range from minor offenses—such as loitering or trespassing—to more serious crimes, including theft, vandalism, or even assault.

While misdemeanors may not carry the same weight as felonies, they can still significantly impact one’s life. A single conviction can result in lasting consequences, affecting employment opportunities, personal and professional relationships, and even immigration status.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Convictions in California

Misdemeanor convictions in California can result in a range of penalties, depending on the severity of the offense.

Typical penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Up to one year in county jail

Seeking legal advice and representation can help mitigate these consequences and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Collateral Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction

Collateral consequences refer to the non-criminal penalties a person may face due to a criminal conviction. The collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction can be far-reaching and impactful.

Here are some examples:

  1. Loss of certain civil rights — Depending on the severity of the misdemeanor, you may lose the right to own a firearm.
  2. Damage to personal and professional reputation — A misdemeanor conviction can tarnish your personal and professional reputation, affecting your relationships and future career prospects.
  3. Difficulty obtaining housing — Landlords may conduct background checks and deny housing to individuals with criminal records, including misdemeanor convictions.
  4. Impact on immigration status — A misdemeanor conviction can have negative consequences on immigration status, including possible deportation or being denied entry into the United States.
  5. Increased difficulty obtaining loans or credit — A misdemeanor conviction can negatively impact the decision making process that lenders undergo when evaluating whether to extend a loan for a mortgage or other major purchase based on “good character” criteria
  6. Loss of professional licenses or certifications — Certain professions, such as real estate, healthcare, or law, may require licenses or certifications, which can be revoked or denied based on a misdemeanor conviction.

It is important to note that these consequences can vary depending on the severity of the offense. Seeking legal advice and representation from a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you understand the specific consequences you may face and guide you through the legal process.

How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record in California?

A misdemeanor in California can permanently remain on your record unless you take steps to remove it, such as through a petition to dismiss (“expungement”) or a motion to vacate.

This means that for the rest of your life, potential employers and lenders may be able to see your criminal history when you secure a new jobs or apply for loans. Thankfully, not all hope is lost. You might have legal options available to you to help you start fresh.

Legal Options for Removing Misdemeanor Convictions in California

There are various methods of removing misdemeanor convictions in California, including expungement and motion to vacate. Let’s take a look at both.


Misdemeanor expungement in California is the legal process of dismissing a misdemeanor conviction from your criminal record. This process involves filing a petition with the court, and if approved, the conviction will be set aside, and your record will show the charge as dismissed.

California versions of expungements can help improve job prospects, housing opportunities, and licensing requirements, but eligibility determinations and the process can be complex, so seeking legal guidance is recommended.

Motion to Vacate

A motion to vacate misdemeanor convictions in California is a legal process that allows a defendant to request that the court overturn or set aside a prior misdemeanor conviction. The grounds for filing a motion to vacate may include legal errors or new evidence unavailable at the time of the original conviction. These motions are typically available to those who have immigration consequences because of the conviction or were victims of human trafficking or other related violent crime such as domestic violence or sexual assault that directly caused the conviction to occur.

If granted, the conviction will be removed from the defendant’s record, and any related penalties will be dismissed. However, meeting the criteria for a motion to vacate, drafting, and filing said motion to vacate can be complex so seeking legal advice is recommended.

Contact The Nieves Law Firm for Assistance With Misdemeanor Convictions

Are you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the consequences of a misdemeanor conviction in California? Don’t despair — The Nieves Law Firm in Oakland is here to help.

Our team of legal professionals is trained to provide advice and guidance during this difficult time. We have the expertise to guide you through every aspect of the legal process, from filing paperwork to explaining complex legal terms.

With The Nieves Law Firm by your side, you won’t have to face any issues alone—leaving you with more energy to focus on other important matters. If you want answers about your misdemeanor conviction, please contact us today.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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