What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation in California?
A certificate of rehabilitation is a court order granted by a judge who has determined that an individual has been rehabilitated post-conviction. Certificates of rehabilitation and pardon guidelines can be found in Penal Code 4852 PC.
It is a form of post-conviction relief that individuals can apply for once a certain period has passed. Different types of crimes have different eligibility timelines and requirements for an individual to seek and obtain it.
A certificate of rehabilitation (COR) essentially informs the public that you have been deemed a law-abiding citizen by the court. Still, it does not erase a criminal record. The process and eligibility for obtaining a COR are described under Penal Code 4852 PC, subsections 4852.01 – 4852.21 PC.
It can help improve employment possibilities, and a pardon could restore your civil rights, such as owning and possessing a firearm. In some cases, it could even end your duty to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC.
A COR can only be sought after an individual has been convicted of a crime. They are not available for arrests that did not result in convictions. It is important to note that a criminal conviction will remain on an individual's criminal record after the court has granted a certificate of rehabilitation.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will discuss this topic below in this article.
What are the Benefits?
The most prevalent benefit of obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation is that it informs the public that the individual had a criminal conviction in the past and can now be counted on to follow the law.
While a conviction remains on an individual's record after a certificate of rehabilitation has been granted, the individual can use it when their criminal background is checked to show that they have taken the necessary steps to move on from their criminal past.
This can be beneficial when the individual is applying for a job, credit, housing, or anything else that requires a background check. A certificate of rehabilitation also comes with specific benefits once it is granted.
Firstly, suppose the convicted individual is seeking a professional license from a state agency. In that case, the state agency is not permitted to deny the individual the license solely based on their previous conviction.
Secondly, individuals convicted of sex offenses that require sex offender registry can be relieved of their duty to register depending on the facts and circumstances. An individual that is convicted of a sex offense can be relieved of registering if:
- The individual is not in custody or monitored by a parole or probation agent, and
- If the offense is a specific Penal Code 290 PC offense, except for;
- Kidnapping to commit rape, oral copulation, sodomy, lewd acts with a minor, foreign object sexual penetration;
- Pimping and pandering as a felony (PC 266h and 266i);
- Rape and sexual assault as a felony (PC 261);
- Human trafficking a child (PC 236.1);
- Sexual battery as a felony (PC 243.4);
- Assault to commit a sex crime (PC 220);
- Lewd acts with a child under 14 (PC 288);
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child (PC 288.5);
- Sex with a child under 10 (PC 288.7)
- Annoying or molesting a child (PC 647.6);
In other words, sex offenses that involve a child, sexual assault, and kidnapping are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation.
The only way that an individual can be relieved of their duty to register as a sex offender is to receive a full pardon from the Governor of California. A successful certificate of rehabilitation will also result in an automatic application for pardon by the Governor of California.
Who Qualifies for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
An individual is eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation in California if all of the following requirements are met. It can be granted to an individual who:
- Has not been jailed over a new offense since the completion of their case;
- Is not currently on probation for a felony conviction;
- Has lived in California continuously for the past five years;
- They have been rehabilitated for a specific number of years as required;
- They are not ineligible due to the type of conviction or sentence; and
- Has at least one of the following situations:
- The individual is a convicted felon and was sentenced to prison, or
- The individual was convicted of a felony, was given probation, and has since gotten the conviction expunged, or
- The individual was convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense under Penal Code 290 and has before had the conviction expunged.
Who is Ineligible?
Individuals serving in the military, serving a life sentence, or having been sentenced to death or lifetime parole are not eligible to receive a certificate of rehabilitation.
Sex crimes involving children are also not eligible for certificates of rehabilitation, such as serious felony sex offenses such as:
- Penal Code 286(c) PC sodomy with a child or by force or threat,
- Penal Code 287(c) PC oral copulation with a child or by force or threat, and
- Penal Code 289(j) PC forcible sexual penetration of a child.
Further, you could also be considered ineligible if the court determines you are still a threat to minors.
What are the Application Requirements?
Applicants must demonstrate a satisfactory rehabilitation period to receive a certificate of rehabilitation. This generally requires a five-year residency requirement plus an additional two to five years, depending on the type of conviction.
Most convictions have a seven-year waiting period. The clock starts once the convicted individual completes parole, felony probation, or is released from supervision. More serious crimes such as murder or obscene conduct have longer waiting periods.
The rehabilitation period is usually the minimum period that must have passed for a defendant to receive a certificate of rehabilitation. You need to know that It is not a guarantee that your petition will be granted.
Some serious crimes require a nine-year waiting period, such as Penal Code 187 PC murder, Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping, Penal Code 4500 PC assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and any crime carries a life sentence.
Likewise, some sex crimes require a ten-year waiting period before you can apply for a COR, such as Penal Code 311 PC child pornography law, sexual exploitation of a child, and Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure.
You can get a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation from the courthouse where you live. You can get a copy of your criminal record from the court where you were convicted or the California Department of Justice. The court will schedule a hearing to decide whether to grant your COR.
Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles County and serves people throughout Southern California. You can contact our law firm for an initial case review by calling (310) 328-3776 or filling out our contact form.