Many people may not realize that inmates in California play an integral role in fighting fires throughout the state. As of October 2020, there were approximately 3,700 inmates working at fire camps in various areas throughout the state. These inmates work to provide various services, including firefighting services as well as support staff for firefighters, including laundry workers, landscapers, water treatment plant workers, and cooks. Here, we want to discuss what the law says about expungement for completion of fire camp by inmates in California.
A new bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom accelerates the process for expunging felony records of those who complete fire camp in California. The new law also makes it easier for them to earn their certification as an emergency medical technician, which is the first step in becoming a firefighter in most cities and counties throughout California.
The actual text of the law says that a person will be eligible for an expungement of their felony conviction if they “successfully participated in the California Conservation Camp program as an incarcerated individual hand crew member, as determined by the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or successfully participated as a member of a county incarcerated individual hand crew, as determined by the appropriate county authority, and has been released from custody…”
If the requirements of the law are met, the court, in its discretion and in the interest of justice, permit the convicted individual to withdraw their plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and thus enter a plea of not guilty or have the court set aside a guilty verdict.
The California legislature has decided that there are various convictions that will not be eligible for expungement due to the completion of fire camp in California. This includes the following:
Additionally, if the person who received the expungement is prosecuted for any other offense in California, their prior conviction should have the same effect on their current charges as if their previous charges had not been expunged. In other words, the prosecution can use the previous conviction against the defendant if new charges arise at a later date. Contact a Riverside criminal defense attorney to learn if you qualify for expungement under PC 1203.4b.
In many situations, a person who receives an expungement will not have to inform other people that they received the conviction in the first place. However, California state law does require that a person “disclose the conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for licensure by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, a peace officer, public office, or for contracting with the California State Lottery Commission.”
However, the law does not say that a person who receives an expungement has to report their conviction to any other individuals who may ask.