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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Published on: 3/13/2013 4:14 PM

​You are eligible for record clearance provided that:

  • You were placed on court or formal probation.
  • You fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire probationary period.
  • The court determined it would be in the interest of justice to waive probation.
  • You were convicted of a crime, but were not placed on probation or committed to state prison, and one year has passed since judgment.
  • You are not presently charged with commission of any offense.
  • You are not presently serving a sentence.

However, you are not eligible for record clearance if any of the following conditions exist:

  • You are still on Court or formal probation or are in a Diversion program.
  • You were convicted of a crime, but were not placed on probation or committed to the California Department of Corrections, and one year has not passed since judgment.
  • You are presently charged with commission of any offense.
  • You are serving a sentence.
  • Your probation was revoked or was not successfully completed.
  • There is an outstanding warrant for your arrest.
  • You have a criminal or immigration (INS) charge pending.
  • You have failed to appear at or failed to pay the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • You were committed to California Department of Corrections or the California Youth Authority.
​YES, a record clearance does not release you from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the charges in your case. Information relating to your cases may be made available where the release is authorized by local, state, or federal law. You may still be required to disclose the conviction in response to certain direct questions. You may be prohibited from owning a firearm because of the conviction. In addition, record clearance will not keep the charge from being alleged against you as a prior conviction in any future proceedings.
Questions regarding information you may be required to reveal or situations where information relating to your cases may be made available should be addressed to an attorney at the Office of the Public Defender or another attorney licensed to practice law in California.
​Felony reduction/record clearance is available for certain types of felonies. Questions regarding felony reduction/record clearance should be addressed to Mamie Lopez or Gabriel Smith at the Office of the Public Defender.
​Early termination of probation may be available in certain circumstances. The Probation Department may submit petitions to the Court for consideration of early termination of probation prior to the expiration of the term, for good reason as determined by the Probation Officer. Questions regarding early termination should be directed to your Probation Officer, however, if additional information is needed, the Office of the Public Defender may be able to assist.

You MUST be a social services client to qualify for expungement services through the PDO. Social Services clients should contact Mamie Lopez at 299-7143. If you are not a Social Services client and are interested in additional information you should contact San Jose State University's Record Clearance Project at 408-924-2758 or Santa Clara University's Record Clearance Project at 408-554-5142. You can also pursue record clearance by obtaining an application from the Probation Department.

A Public Defender is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of California who is appointed by the court to represent people who are financially unable to hire an attorney. The Public Defender ensures fair representation for those who cannot hire a private attorney.
The Alternate Defender’s Office provides representation for defendants whom the Public Defender cannot represent. This may occur, for example, when the Public Defender’s Office already represents another defendant accused in the same case, or the defendant happens to be a witness against another Public Defender client in a separate case. This is called a “conflict of interest”.
When both the Public Defender and the Alternate Defender are unable to represent a client because of a conflict of interest, the court will appoint other counsel.
​The Office of the Public Defender represents adults charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime or a violation of probation; and juveniles charged in the juvenile court. Public Defenders may also be appointed to represent individuals subject to proceedings related to involuntary civil mental health commitments. The Office of the Public Defender does not represent crime victims. Crime victims should contact the District Attorney’s Victim Witness Assistance Program for further information. In addition, the Office of the Public Defender is unable to represent individuals charged with infractions – offenses punishable by only a fine. However, the Office of the Public Defender does represent individuals on several driving related offenses, such as driving under the influence, reckless driving, etc. You can contact the Office for further details.
​The Office of the Public Defender handles cases ranging from simple misdemeanor to complex felonies and death penalty cases, as well as Mental Health proceedings and criminal cases in Juvenile Court.
​The Office of the Public Defender does not provide representation in Juvenile Dependency cases (Penal Code Section 300). If you need additional information on Juvenile Dependency representation you should contact Dependency Legal Services at (408) 995-0442.
​The Office of the Public Defender represents the accused in a criminal proceeding. The District Attorney represents the State of California in a criminal proceeding. County Counsel represents the interest of the County of Santa Clara, mostly in civil matters.
​At your first court appearance there is usually a Deputy Public Defender, assigned to the court, who may be able to assist you. If you are out of custody, you will be referred to the Office of the Public Defender to complete a financial eligibility questionnaire to determine if you qualify for Public Defender representation or if you are financially able to hire a private attorney. If you are in custody the Public Defender is usually automatically appointed unless private counsel has already been retained.
​Although the Office of the Public Defender is a governmental entity, it is also a law office. The attorneys represent the clients with the same skill, zeal, and confidentiality as a private attorney.
​No. Once you are charged as a defendant in a criminal case and are represented by an attorney, either appointed or retained, the Public Defender will not speak with you.
​The Office of the Public Defender can provide general information regarding the court process. The specifics of your case will not usually be discussed until the Public Defender has been appointed.

Please follow the links below to obtain detailed information on the specific type of charges.

The Office of the Public Defender can assist you to clear your criminal record of misdemeanors and certain felony violations. Public Defender assistance is available for Social Services clients through an agreement with the Social Services Agency. Assistance is available for individuals who are not Social Services clients provided that financial eligibility criteria for Public Defender assistance is met.
​The Office of the Public Defender and the Courts provide language assistance and interpreters as needed. Please contact the Office for more information.
​The Office of the Public Defender offers many outstanding job opportunities. In addition to attorneys, the Office of the Public Defender has support staff including investigators, paralegals and clerks. Hiring for each of the positions is conducted on a civil service basis. For specific job information and applications please contact Employee Service Agency, County of Santa Clara. The Office of the Public Defender also has unpaid internships and law clerk positions which provide valuable experience for individuals interested in pursuing employment in the criminal justice system. Inquiries should be directed to Personnel Secretary, Office of the Public Defender, 120 West Mission Street, San Jose, CA 95110.
Proposition 36, approved by California voters in November 2000, provides offenders convicted of drug possession or drug use, with treatment instead of jail or prison time. Both first-time and repeat drug offenders are eligible to participate in the program. Some offenders who have other charges or convictions may not be eligible. Click the link below for more information on Proposition 36 and the Drug Treatment program.
​Consultation with an attorney is always the most prudent step, therefore, you should contact the Public Defender’s Office to speak with an attorney before you do or say anything else (even if charges have not yet been filed against you). Any consultation with an attorney from the Office of the Public Defender will be completely confidential. Telephone calls from any local jail are free and collect calls regarding matters pending in Santa Clara County will be accepted.