A criminal history can haunt you after serving your sentence and changing your habits. It can lock you out of employment opportunities, deny you housing in specific neighborhoods and even keep you within the authority’s leash— just in case a crime happens within your area. Fortunately, if you have managed to stay out of trouble, California laws allow you to put down the weight of past convictions through a certificate of rehabilitation. At Leah Legal, we obtain certificates of rehabilitation for numerous clients in Van Nuys, CA, each year. We have the best legal team that can make it easy and fast for you to file a petition and demonstrate to the courts that you are worth a pardon.
It is hard to become a productive member of your society with a conviction history hanging on your neck. While obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation will not take a conviction off your record, it will help remove some statutory prohibitions allied with felony convictions and make it easier to obtain professional licenses.
Understanding Penal Code 4852 (Certificate of Rehabilitation)?
California’s Penal Code Sections 4852.01 to 4852.21 PC codify the regulations that touch on the Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR). This is an official court document that offers an enticing way to clear your criminal history and show that you are now an upstanding citizen, despite your criminal record. Note that the document only clears your criminal history—it doesn’t erase it.
Once you file a petition to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation, a judge will consider it and determine whether you are worth a pardon. If you are granted post-conviction relief through a COR, it will serve as an official application for a Governor’s pardon. The courts will forward the COR to the governor, although there are no guarantees that a pardon will be granted.
If you are convicted of a felony in California, you can apply for a COR through the superior court in your county. However, you may not be eligible for this option if you were convicted for a sex offense or for felony offenses which include:
- Penal Code 289(j) — forceful sexual penetration of a minor
- Penal Code 288.5 — ongoing sexual abuse of a child
- Penal Code 288a(c) — oral copulation by force or with a minor
- Penal Code 286(c) — sodomy by force or with a minor
- Penal Code 288 — child molestation)
Only sex offenders registered under Penal Code section 290 may apply for a certificate of rehabilitation. While there are other options of clearing your criminal history, applying for a certificate of rehabilitation may be your best option in certain circumstances. They include:
- If you don’t qualify for expungement because your sentence involved serving time in state prison
- If you have already had your felony expunged but need additional post-conviction relief
- If you are a registered sex offender under Penal Code section 290
It remains imperative to understand the power of a Certificate of Rehabilitation as well as its limitations. Knowing what this document can or cannot do will help you set realistic expectations.
What a Certificate of Rehabilitation Can Do
- Serve as an automatic official application for a governor’s pardon
- Restore some of the citizen rights you lost due to a conviction (like the right to own a firearm)
- Relieve you of the duty of registering as a sex offender
What a Certificate of Rehabilitation Cannot Do
- Erase your conviction— you still have to disclose your criminal history to potential employers.
- Give you a clean slate— your past conviction can still be used to impose sentence enhancement for future offenses.
Certificate of Rehabilitation Petition Process
There are requirements you must satisfy to qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation. Persons convicted of felony or misdemeanor sex offenses and were punished through probation must first obtain an expungement to have their criminal conviction removed from their record. If the courts grant expungement and seal your record from the criminal justice system, you can petition for a COR.
It remains imperative to deal with the COR application process with care. While it is perfectly okay to handle this process without involving an attorney, enlisting one can help reduce the risk of blunders that may force the courts to dismiss your petition. Filing for a COR will not cost you a dime, and the only expense you need to incur is for a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Whether to grant your request for a certificate of rehabilitation or to deny it is entirely up to the judge. This makes it wise to seek the counsel, guidance, and representation of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
We can arrange to meet with the prosecution before your hearing and plead for their support by presenting arguments during non-formal negotiation. With the help of the prosecution, the judge may feel inclined towards granting the COR.
Some of the factors a judge may consider during the hearing include:
- Your reasons for filing a petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation
- Proof of residing in California continuously for the minimum waiting period (5—10 years)
- Evidence that you are employed or in school
- Your educational and professional history
- Proof of your volunteer work
- Your social or family support network
- Letters of recommendation or support from employers, friends, colleagues, professors, etc
- The individual facts of crimes you have been convicted for
- Your trial and prison history
- Whether you completed parole/ probation
- Arguments from the District Attorney and the Governor’s Office
- Other forms of evidence that support your rehabilitation, eligibility, and character
The petition for a COR should be filed with the county clear at your county superior court. The District Attorney’s Office is tasked with establishing which petitioners are eligible for a COR. Your petition will be reviewed, and investigations conducted to affirm that you qualify for the post-conviction relief.
If the District Attorney’s Office deems you an eligible candidate, the courts will schedule a petition hearing date and notify you via mail. You must send a notice of the hearing to the District Attorney and the Governor’s Office not less than 30 days before the petition hearing date.
Note that you must notify the District Attorney’s Office in each county where you have been convicted. While it is not necessary to file multiple petitions irrespective of your number of convictions, it is essential to provide the following information:
- The date of every conviction
- The county where you were convicted
- The precise charge(s) you faced
- The penalties/sentence imposed
- The date of discharge from parole/ probation or when you were released from prison
Typically, it takes 2—6 months from the hearing date for a judge to decide whether you qualify for a COR. The expected time span may vary from one county to another.
If you are deemed ineligible for a COR, you will be notified about this via mail. You may choose to file a motion with the court to receive information from the District Attorney’s Office about the cause of your petition’s denial.
California Certificate of Rehabilitation Eligibility Requirements
Your attorney can help ensure that you meet the requirements to apply for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation. The conditions you must meet include:
- You must not be serving probation for a felony conviction
- You have not been jailed after serving your criminal conviction sentence
- You have been a California resident for at least 5 years continuously
- You have been a stand up citizen for the “minimum number of years,” depending on the nature of your past conviction.
Unfortunately, you do not qualify for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation if:
- You were convicted for a misdemeanor sex crime that is not listed under Penal Code 290
- You currently serve in the U.S. military
- You are under mandatory life parole
- Your sentence involved the death penalty
- You were convicted of a felony in another state
Even in the worst of cases, there is always hope for rejoining society and becoming a productive citizen, free of your criminal conviction history. For instance, even if you are ineligible for a COR, you can still enjoy post-conviction relief by obtaining a full pardon from the governor.
Usually, you can appeal a judge’s decision, although appealing requires you to pay a fee. The decision of whether to reconsider the last judgment will still be at the discretion of the judge, making it hard to enjoy a ruling that is in your favor.
The best course of action is to wait a while and reapply for the COR in the future. We can review your case and inform you about the likelihood of your COR application being granted or denied. Additionally, we can educate you about your options based on the specifics of your past convictions.
How Long Must You Wait Before Applying For A California Certificate Of Rehabilitation?
Before you apply for a California certificate of rehabilitation, you must prove that you have gone through a “satisfactory period of rehabilitation.” This means you must have resided in California for at least 5 continuous years. The clock starts ticking from the moment you complete probation/parole or from the instance you are released from community or mandatory supervision.
Depending on the crimes that lead to your conviction, the satisfactory period of rehabilitation may be increased by 2—5 years. For instance, there is a 9—year waiting period for offenses like assault causing significant bodily harm, murder, and crimes that carry a life sentence. On the other hand, there is a 10—year waiting period for sex offenses that require you to register as a sex offender.
Is It Possible To Have The Rehabilitation Waiting Period Waived?
It is possible to have your rehabilitation waiting period waived by a California judge. Your attorney will need to convince the court that waiving this period will serve in the best interests of justice. Even though the judge has the discretion of waiving this period, it is rarely waived. Moreover, this option cannot be pursued if your offense requires you to register as a sex offender.
Benefits of Obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation
A governor’s pardon offers numerous enticing benefits, some of which you can enjoy by obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation. What makes a COR highly beneficial is that it serves as an automatic application for a governor’s pardon.
Other benefits you may enjoy include:
- Improved employment application prospects
- Fewer hurdles obtaining professional licenses because state licensing agencies cannot deny licensure based on your past conviction
- Relief from having to register as a sex offender
Moreover, the courts will also forward copies of the certificate to the Department of Justice, the Parole board, and the Supreme Court, which can be beneficial in some cases. If you are considered for a governor’s pardon, you qualify to have your gun rights reinstated, and you may also dodge deportation if you are a foreigner.
Once you are granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation, the FBI and the Department of Justice will place a notation showing that you have obtained post-conviction relief for the list of offenses on your certificate.
About the Governor’s Pardon
For most convicts, the only way they can obtain a governor’s pardon is by first obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation. Once the document is granted, it serves as an automatic application for the governor’s pardon, an order by the California governor granting you forgiveness for a past conviction.
The governor’s pardon is only available to convicts who demonstrate exemplary conduct after conviction and sentencing. While the pardon can clear your criminal history, it also has some limitations. For instance, it is limited to California criminal convictions and cannot pardon you for a felony or misdemeanor convictions from other states.
“Exemplary conduct” refers to completing your sentence and satisfactory rehabilitation successfully. You can demonstrate that you are worth the governor’s pardon by rejoining the society and remaining a law-abiding citizen for 5—10 years or more. Obtaining and maintaining lawful employment can also work in your favor when seeking a governor’s pardon.
Governor’s Pardon Eligibility Criteria
There are requirements you must satisfy to qualify for a California governor’s pardon. They include:
- You must have been convicted in California.
- You must have served your sentence or been released on parole or probation.
- You must have stayed away from legal trouble in California for 5—10 years.
- You must not have a history of violating probation rules.
Methods for Applying for a Governor’s Pardon
Method 1 —Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation
If you want to obtain a governor’s pardon, the first step is to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR). If the document is granted, it will act as an automatic application for the California Governor’s pardon. The Superior Court, where you petition your COR, will forward your certificate to the Governor’s Office.
Method 2—Apply Directly For a Governor’s Pardon
If you don’t qualify for a COR, perhaps because you relocated from California, you have the option of applying for a governor’s pardon directly. In this case, the first step is to petition for Executive Clemency.
Executive clemency is an official plea for a pardon from the U.S. president. You need to file this plea/petition with the Pardon Attorney in the DOJ (Department of Justice) in Washington D.C. The petition will give notice of your intention to apply for executive clemency. It must be filed with the DA’s Office (District Attorney’s Office) in each county where you were convicted.
Once the DA’s Office receives the notice of intent, they will forward it to the Governor’s Office, where you can file your application for a governor’s pardon.
Whether you simply want a certificate of rehabilitation or you require an extra level of post-conviction relief by applying for a governor’s pardon, we can help. A skilled criminal attorney can prove to be an invaluable asset, especially when you cannot afford to have your applications denied.
Other Legal Options to Consider If You Have a Criminal Record In California
If you don’t qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a governor’s pardon, all is not lost. There are various other options you can explore to clear your criminal record in California. These options include:
Reduce Charges from a Felony to a Misdemeanor
Any criminal record can have a negative impact on your life. However, misdemeanors are perceived to be less serious than felonies. You may be able to have your charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor if:
- You were convicted for a California wobbler offense
- You have served your sentence or probation for the offense
Another option is to have your criminal record expunged. Expungement is arguably better than a certificate of rehabilitation because it offers far more benefits. These benefits include:
- Protection from employment discrimination grounded on an expunged conviction
- Fewer hurdles obtaining professional licenses in California
- Reinstatement of your right to stand as a credible witness in court
Sealing and Destroying Of an Arrest Record
You have a right to request to have your California arrest record sealed and destroyed. You can exercise this right if:
- You have been arrested and the charges dismissed (no conviction)
- Your conviction was cleared out (vacated) on appeal
Moreover, persons adjudicated as juvenile delinquents may also qualify for California juvenile record sealing and destroying. The eligibility criterion is as follows:
- You must be at least 18 years old, or you must wait for 5—years from the adjudication
- You must not have been convicted for crimes involving immorality in adulthood
- The original conviction must not be for a serious offense like armed robbery or murder
Commutation of Sentence
If you are serving your sentence, you may qualify to have it commuted by the California governor. While a successful petition may not restore the lost civil rights, your sentence may be reduced, or you may now qualify for parole.
Find Leah Legal Near Me
If you need assistance applying for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation, we will be glad to review your case and immediately begin working on your petition. At Leah Legal, we have a skilled and compassionate team representing clients in Van Nuys, CA. We understand the hurdles of rejoining society with a criminal history and inform you about various options to help clear your arrest records or criminal convictions. If you have questions about post-conviction relief options, call us at 818-484-1100 for a free consultation.