Certificate of Rehabilitation
Penal Code Sections 4852.01 – 4852.21
A California Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court finding that a defendant has been rehabilitated following a criminal conviction. The certificate can have a significant impact in helping you secure better future employment and even help secure, or reapply for, professional licensing. It can also end sex offender registration requirements in some cases.
Moreover, if granted, it acts as an automatic application for a governor’s pardon.
If you’re looking to obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation, we can manage the application process for you, and give you a greater chance of success.
A California Certificate of Rehabilitation is part of the California record-clearing process. While it doesn’t erase your criminal record, it is a court order that states that your criminal history is just that… a thing of the past. It essentially declares you a law abiding citizen.
California Penal Code sections 4852.01 – 4852.21 regulate how and to whom these Certificates may be issued.
The benefits of obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation
Some of the benefits of a California Certificate of Rehabilitation include (but are not limited to):
- It prevents state licensing agencies from automatically denying you a professional license,
- It prevents prior felony convictions from being used to impeach your credibility as a witness ( for this provision to apply you additionally need a California Governor’s Pardon),
- It relieves certain sex offenders of their duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290 PC (exclusions to this relief are discussed in section 2. Who is Eligible to Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation), and
- It acts as an automatic application for a Governor’s Pardon.
You are eligible to obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation if you
- were convicted of a felony and sentenced to the California state prison,
- have been released from custody, California probation, or California parole and have since remained free of incarceration,
- present proof that you were a California resident for a minimum of five years immediately prior to filing for your Certificate (or three years if you were placed on parole), and
- present proof of a satisfactory period of rehabilitation which begins from the day you were released from custody (unless you were released from custody or placed on parole prior to May 13, 1943, in which case, you must only present proof that you were a California resident for three years immediately prior to your filing).
- were convicted of a felony for which you received felony probation or a misdemeanor sex offense listed in California Penal Code 290 PC and had that conviction expunged pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4 PC California’s expungement law,
- have since been released from custody on probation (and have since remained free from incarceration),
- are not on probation for the commission of any other felony,
- present proof of a minimum five-year California residency immediately prior to filing for your Certificate, and
- present proof of a satisfactory period of rehabilitation.
Before making a Certificate of Rehabilitation application, you are required to wait a “satisfactory period’ of time and remain free from criminal activity. This period is discretionary (meaning at a judge’s will) and includes the five years that you were a California resident immediately prior to filing for your Certificate plus an additional…
- Penal Code 187 PC murder,
- Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping,
- Penal Code 219 PC train derailing or wrecking,
- Penal Code 4500 PC assault with means of force likely to cause great bodily injury,
- Penal Code 12310 PC acts involving explosives or destructive devices causing death, mayhem, or great bodily injury,
- Military and Veterans Code 1672(a) acts or failing to act that causes another person’s death, or
- any other offense that carries a life sentence,
- certain violations of Penal Code 311 California’s child pornography laws,
- California’s “sexual exploitation of a child” laws, or
- Penal Code 314 PC obscene conduct / indecent exposure.
These violations only require an additional TWO YEAR period, or
You are not eligible to receive a California Certificate of Rehabilitation if you
- Penal Code 286(c) sodomy with a minor,
- Penal Code 288 lewd acts with a minor (a.k.a. child molestation),
- Penal Code 288a(c) oral copulation with a minor,
- Penal Code 288.5 continuous sexual abuse of a child, or
- Penal Code 289(j) forcible acts of sexual penetration with a child,
It is important to understand that if you have been convicted of one of the enumerated California sex offenses listed above or have been sentenced to death, you may still qualify for a “Governor’s Pardon”, as discussed below.
Once it is determined that you meet the eligibility standards, a petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation may be filed with the California Superior Court. The petition includes
- application forms,
- letters of character, and
- other relevant documents.
Upon receipt of the petition, the court sets a hearing date. Whenever possible, it is preferable to have your attorney meet with the prosecuting agency before the hearing in an attempt to gather their support. At the hearing, your attorney argues on your behalf and presents the most favorable evidence to convince the judge to grant your Certificate of Rehabilitation.
Typically, it’s about 120 days from the time the motion is filed to the day of the hearing, although the time frame varies from county to county and courthouse to courthouse. Most of the time, the judge will require that you personally attend the hearing.
If granted, your Certificate of Rehabilitation becomes an automatic application for a Governor’s Pardon.
A Governor’s Pardon is the ultimate relief from the penalties and residual negatives consequences associated with a criminal conviction. Even though a Certificate of Rehabilitation represents the court’s recommendation for a pardon, it is the California Governor who has the ultimate discretion of whether or not to grant this relief. The governor may choose to do so without further review, or the governor may choose to investigate the case further.
The exception to this rule applies when an applicant has been twice convicted of any felony. In that case, he/she must have the recommendation of a majority of the California Supreme Court before the Governor can pardon you without further review.
It is critical to note that where a Certificate of Rehabilitation doesn’t offer relief to:
- persons who have been sentenced to death, or
- to those who have been convicted of California sex offenses
- Penal Code 286(c),
- Penal Code 288,
- Penal Code 288a(c),
- Penal Code 288.5, or
- Penal Code 289(j),
A successful application for a ‘Governor’s Pardon’ does offer relief from even those offenses.