It is hard to become a successful and productive member of society with a criminal conviction hanging on your neck. A criminal record after serving your sentence and changing your criminal behavior can hunt you in the future. It might lock you out of fantastic job opportunities and deny you the chance to rent a home and obtain your professional licenses.
Fortunately, the California laws allow you to put down the pressure of past convictions by obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation. Obtaining the certificate can be a tricky process. You want to work with an intelligent and zealous criminal defense attorney for a successful legal process.
At California Criminal Lawyer Group, our attorneys have obtained numerous certificates of rehabilitation for our clients. We have a deep understanding of California laws, making filing the petition faster. So, if you seek to obtain the certificate of rehabilitation, feel free to contact our team of skilled attorneys.
Overview of California Certificate of Rehabilitation
The regulations about certificates of rehabilitation are outlined under California PC 4852.01 and 4852.21. The document shows ways of clearing your criminal records after becoming a good law-abiding citizen. Note that the document only clears your criminal record but does not erase the records.
After filling a petition to obtain the certificate, the criminal court judge will determine whether you are worth the governor's pardon. After granting you the certificate of rehabilitation, the certificate serves as a legal application for a governor’s pardon.
The law allows you to apply for the certificate of rehabilitation through the superior court after facing a felony conviction. But you may be ineligible for COR if you were convicted of felony offenses or sex offenses which include:
- Sexual penetration of a child by force – California PC 289(j)
- Sexually abusing a child – California PC 288.5
- Child molestation – California PC 2869(c)
- Oral copulation by use of force – California PC 288(c)
- Sodomy using force – California PC 286(c)
The law allows the sex offenders registered under PC 290 to apply for the certificate. Although there are other alternatives for deleting your criminal records, obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation might be the best option in certain situations.
Requirements for Certificate of Rehabilitation
In California, a certificate of Rehabilitation clears your name and rehabilitation record.
You want to meet the requirements before applying for a certificate of Rehabilitation. The conditions are:
- You are not serving probation for a felony conviction.
- You have not served a jail term after the end of your sentence.
- You have been a resident in California for at least five continuous years before applying for the California Certificate of Rehabilitation.
- You have been a stand-up citizen for the minimum number of years..
However, you may not qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation when:
- You currently serve in the US military
- You are under mandatory life parole
- Your sentence included the death penalty
- You face conviction for a felony crime in another state
- You face conviction for a misdemeanor sex crime which is not listed under PC 290
You don't have to worry even if you committed a felony crime. There is hope for coming back to society and becoming a reproductive citizen. For example, even when you don't qualify for COR, you can enjoy post-conviction relief, whereby you will enjoy a full pardon from your governor. You want to appeal to the judge. Again you may opt to wait a while and reapply FOR in the future. The judges will review your case and inform you about the possibility of your COR application being granted or denied.
How Long Do You Wait Before Applying for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation
Before applying for a COR, you want to attend a satisfactory rehabilitation period. Again, you must have been a resident of California for five consecutive years. You count the years from the day you complete your parole. However, depending on the crime you faced conviction for, your rehabilitation period may be enhanced by two to five years, depending on your offense. You count the period from the day you completed probation to when you were out of supervision.
9 Years Waiting Time
There are crimes where you wait for a minimum of 9 years before applying for a certificate of Rehabilitation. The crimes include:
- Assault with significant bodily harm.
- Other violent crimes.
10-year Waiting Period
Mostly, sex Offenses require you to wait for ten years before applying for a certificate of Rehabilitation. The ten years include five years of staying in California and spending five years in rehabilitation. The rule mainly applies to sex offenders, which requires you to register as a sex offender.
Can You Wave Your Rehabilitation Waiting Period?
A California judge may waive your rehabilitation waiting period. Your attorney wants to convince the court that waving your rehabilitation period serves justice's best interest. Even though the judge has the discretion of waiving the rehabilitation period, they rarely do so. Again, you may not pursue this option if your offense requires you to register as a sex offender.
What Happens After I File a Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation?
After filing the petition, you want to remain patient. It might take months before you receive notification about the petition. In the meantime, the prosecution team will investigate what you have been doing since walking out of custody. After investigating, the prosecution agency will prepare a report to the criminal court judge. When the prosecution agency determines you are ineligible for the certificate of rehabilitation, they will notify you and the court. Then, there will not be a court hearing. But if you still believe you qualify for the COR, you can file a motion seeking the judge to conduct a hearing for the eligibility.
Alternatively, if the agency agrees you are eligible for the certificate of rehabilitation, they will notify you via mail about the court dates for your hearing. The court dates will take around six months from the initial day of filing for the petition.
What Happens During the Hearing?
During the court hearing, the court will allow you to give reasons why you think you have been well rehabilitated. You can also allow your attorney to represent you in court. What you say before the judge will be highly considered by the judge to determine your situation. You may include a letter of recommendation amongst the following details:
- Witness your good character,
- Community service,
- Evidence you are in school
- Prove you reside in California
- Proof of your volunteer work
- Your professional and educational history
- Your prison and trial history
- Your family and social support network
- Arguments from the California governor's office and district attorney
Employment history, among other evidence to support your claim. You may encourage your friends and family members who know more about your history to testify about your accomplishments. Discuss with them before moving to the court. Remember that friends can worsen your situation once they provide irrelevant information. Speak with your attorney in case you find the legal process challenging.
During the court hearing, the court may review your information about the crime you were convicted of, your criminal history, your jail sentence, and your probation program. Also, the court may review any details filed by law enforcement officers after your release on parole, mandatory supervision, probation, or community supervision.
The prosecuting agency may either agree with the court to grant the certificate or rehabilitation or not. The judge has the final decision on whether to deny or grant the certificate of rehabilitation. Remember, the certificate is hardly granted, but you still want to pursue it.
If the criminal court judge grants you the certificate of rehabilitation, CONGRATULATIONS! It means you possess a court order showing you are officially rehabilitated. The judge will send the order automatically to the governor’s office. It will make you eligible for the application for the governor’s pardon. Although the governor's pardon will take considerable time, you will receive notification for any decisions made.
Note even though the judge sends the application to the governor, they may fail to consider it. The fact is that the certificate of rehabilitation and the governor’s pardon are rarely granted. So, you want to work with a well-skilled attorney to ensure you maximize the chances of winning your case.
What Can the Certificate of Rehabilitation Do?
- Relieves from registering as a sex offender
- Restore certain rights, including your right to possess a gun
- You will qualify for an automatic application for a governor’s pardon
What is Governor’s Pardon?
In many cases, the available way to obtain a governor's pardon is through receiving COR. Once you are granted the document, it will serve as an automatic application. The governor’s pardon is an order by the state governor to forgive you of all the previous convictions.
The pardon is only offered to the offenders with exemplary behavior after sentencing. Though the governor’s pardon can clear your past criminal record, it has certain limitations. For example, the governor's pardon is limited to California, meaning you cannot pardon misdemeanor or felony convictions outside California.
Exemplary conduct means you complete your punishment and sentence successfully. You can prove that you qualify for the pardon by rejoining your community and remaining peaceful for about 5 to 10 years. Seeking and keeping lawful employment may prove you are eligible for the governor's pardon.
Who is Eligible for the Governor’s Pardon?
As mentioned above, not everyone will qualify for the application for the governor’s pardon. The law requires you to meet specific criteria to be eligible for the governor's pardon. You must meet the following requirements to become eligible for the governor's pardon.
- Your conviction must have taken place in California
- You should not have a record of violating the terms and conditions of a probation
- You should have finished around 5-10 years or more after serving the sentence
- You should have served a sentence or released on parole probation
What Can the Governor's Pardon Do?
- Allows restorations for your rights upon federal approval unless the conviction involved the use of a severe weapon
- Allows you to be relieved from registration as a sex offender
What the Governor's Pardon Cannot Do?
- It does not prevent deportation.
- It does not erase or seal records of arrest.
- It does not pardon convictions outside California.
- The pardoned person will not be allowed to answer if they have no criminal record unless the court has already expunged the records.
How to Apply for Governor’s Pardon
As mentioned above, a governor's pardon is essential as you seek a certificate of rehabilitation. You can work with your attorney to ensure they provide the legal help you deserve. The law allows you to use the following legal methods when obtaining the governor's pardon:
1st Method – Obtain the COR
When you wish to obtain the governor's pardon, the first way is to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation. After the court grants you the document, it is an automatic application for the governor’s pardon. You apply your petition to the California superior court. The court then forwards the certificate to the California governor’s office.
2nd Method – Applying for a Direct Governor's Pardon
Sometimes you might find that you do not qualify for the certificate of rehabilitation. For example, your location may hinder you from applying for rehabilitation certification. So, you can apply for a direct governor’s pardon. You start by filing a petition for executive clemency.
What is executive clemency? This is an official plea for your pardon from the president of the US. You can file for the petition/plea with your attorney at the Department of Justice in Washington DC. The plea will show your intention to file for the pardon. The petition must also be filed with your district attorney from your county of residence.
After the district attorney receives the notice, they forward the notice to the California governor's office. Then you can file your petition seeking the governor's pardon. The legal process for obtaining both the certificate of rehabilitation and the governor's pardon is challenging. So, you want to work closely with an attorney conversant with post-conviction matters in California. The attorney will help you learn the available options for you.
Other Lawful Options
Are you ineligible for both the governor’s pardon and certificate of rehabilitation? All is not lost. The law allows you to use several ways to have your criminal records cleared. But it would help if you worked closely with a well-skilled and trained criminal defense attorney. The attorney will help you determine the legal option best suits your case. The available options include:
Reducing the Case to Misdemeanor Charge
Any criminal conviction will have a negative consequence on your future life. But the court considers the misdemeanor charge less severe than the felony charges. You can reduce your charge to a misdemeanor when:
- You had a conviction for a wobbler offense
- You served the probation or sentence
The second option is having a criminal defense attorney help you expunge the criminal records. Many legal experts argue that expungement is better than obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation. The benefits associated with the expungements include:
- Protection from employers conducting background checks
- Reinstatement of your rights and credibility as a court witness
- Obtaining a professional license in the state
Sealing the Records of Your Arrests
You can request the court to seal and destroy your arrest records through your criminal defense attorney. However, the option can only be available when:
When the police arrested you and dismissed the case
- The court vacated your case.
- But if you were adjudicated as a delinquent, you may not qualify for the record sealing and destroying. To be eligible for the sealing and destroying of the records, you must meet the following criteria:
- You should be aged above 18 years.
- Your conviction should not involve immorality in adulthood.
- The sentence should not involve a severe crime like murder or armed robbery.
Additional Important Information on Certificate of Rehabilitation
You don't want to spend money to obtain COR. You only spend the fees of your criminal defense attorney. The judge decides whether they will grant you a rehabilitation certificate, and that's why it is essential to have an attorney with many years of experience. After filing your California Certificate of Rehabilitation, the court will set a hearing date. Once the hearing date is decided, the court notifies the governor's office. However, any of the offices can argue against issuing your COR. An attorney will represent you during the hearing if you retain one.
During the hearing, the judge will listen to varied arguments from the governor's office, District attorneys in counties you received convictions, etc. The judge will also listen to your attorney to represent arguments in your favor. Again, if the judge requires you to appear in court during the hearing, you also want to show up.
Your attorney may decide to meet the prosecutor before the hearing. The attorney may persuade the prosecutor to accept COR by presenting an argument in a non-formal negotiation. The support of a prosecutor may push the judge to grant you a certificate of Rehabilitation. In deciding whether to give you the certificate, the judge will consider the following factors:
- Evidence of showing your work in a school
- Your education background
- Proof of volunteers' work
- Recommendation letters from employers, colleagues, physician psychiatrists,s and teachers
- Reasons for petitioning for the rehabilitation certificate
- Evidence that you live in California for the waiting period
- Other evidence supporting your character and eligibility
- The day you completed your parole
- Your prison history
- Arguments from the governor's office
- Your family
- Your criminal history.
After applying for the certificate of Rehabilitation, you take two to six months to wait for the decision from a judge. After filing the petition, it takes three months to have a hearing date. However, the duration you wait varies depending on your county in California.
Benefits of Applying for Certificate of Rehabilitation
A certificate of Rehabilitation does not clear your criminal records like an expungement. However, it comes with the following advantages:
In California, it is difficult to find employment with a criminal record. All the employers conduct google searches, profess professional background searches, and social media searches before choosing a favorable employee. After obtaining the COR, you may present the certificate as evidence you made a step to change your life and that you are worthy of professional consideration. Again, with the certificate, you will not be denied a professional license from the state.
Automatic Governor's Pardon
When you apply for COR, you automatically receive the governor's pardon. When you have a governor's pardon, you can access the rights you lost after facing conviction. The rights include the right to own a firearm and serve a jury. Again, the governor's pardon could stop your registration as a sex offender.
Registration as a Sex Offender
In California, obtaining the Certificate of Rehabilitation ends your registration as a sex offender. You have to note that not all sex crimes are worthy of this benefit. The crimes include sex Offenses involving a child, kidnapping, and sexual assault. Therefore if you face a conviction for a sex crime, you want to speak with your attorney to know if your offense is eligible. The only way a sex offender can be relieved from their conviction is by receiving a full pardon from the governor. A successful Certificate of Rehabilitation results in an automatic application for pardon by the California governor.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Do you seek to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation in California? Using the COR alone might be a challenging process. The legal process involved in obtaining the certificate of rehabilitation is tricky. You want to hire an experienced attorney handling post-conviction matters in California.
At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have a compassionate and skilled team of attorneys. We understand the benefits of obtaining the certificate of rehabilitation. We start by listening to your case, evaluating the case, and determining the best option available for you. If you are in Anaheim and have and seek to obtain the certificate of rehabilitation, call our attorneys as soon as possible. Contact us today at 714-766-0965, and we will review your case and begin working on it immediately.