By Catherine Hamilton
RIVERSIDE, CA — In a Riverside County Superior Court hearing late last week, Judge Burke Strunsky granted Virginia Acuna an expungement of a misdemeanor from 2011 in an effort to allow her to receive low-income housing.
Since her first and only charge in 2011, Acuna has made monthly payments for a victim restitution charge that totaled to $9,545.67. So far, she has paid $6,135, with $3,410.67 left. However, according to her attorney, she had an additional cost of $1,431.85 for court administrative fees.
Acuna was represented by Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Mendoza, who asked Judge Strunsky to grant PC §1203.4(a)(1) relief.
According to the California Penal Code, a charge erasure under 1203.4 allows the case to be dismissed and removes many of the negative consequences of having a criminal conviction. The prosecution objected to this request because of the outstanding restitution fees Acuna had yet to pay.
Sometime after the misdemeanor, Acuna was declared disabled in a way not stated by the court, but it made her only source of income from disabled social security.
In his request for the 1203.4 grant, PD Mendoza stated that Acuna was trying to apply for low-income housing, which was part of the reasoning behind the petition. To be granted housing, the program does a thorough background check, and, with Acuna’s criminal conviction, it would be unlikely for her to receive housing aid.
Impressed by her commitment to actually make the monthly payments, Judge Strunsky decided to grant 1203.4 relief and permanently suspend Acuna’s court administrative costs. He filed a civil judgment to benefit the county of Riverside, meaning that, even though she won’t have a criminal charge on her record, Acuna will still have to pay the remaining $3,410.67 in restitution fees, something that she is willing to do.
“She’s entitled to the relief for what she’s done in the last 10 years, and it appears that the housing that she’s anticipating going into, they’re going to do a check, a criminal check, and if this is on, she’s not going to get the housing. And I just can’t do that to her, she’s done everything she’s supposed to do in the last 10 years,” the judge said.