How to Apply for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation
Penal Code Sections 4852.01 - 4852.21 PC

A California Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court finding that you have been rehabilitated following a criminal conviction. It can go a long way in helping you secure better employment prospects and 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.

We're a law firm of ex-cops and ex-prosecutors that helps clients throughout the state to clear up their criminal records. If you're looking to obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation, we can manage the application process for you, and give you the best chance of having it granted successfully.

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 address the following:

1. What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
2. Who is Eligible to Obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation?
3. The Application Process

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles Penal Code 1203.4 California's Expungement Process; California Probation Laws; California Parole Laws; Governor's Pardon; Sealing and Destroying Arrest Records; Penal Code 290 Sex Offender Registration; and California Sex Crimes.

1. What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

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.2

As Ventura criminal defense attorney Darrell York3 explains, "This Certificate is a bold statement that tells society that you have moved on to become an honest, upstanding "rehabilitated" member of the community.4 And unlike a motion to seal and destroy your arrest records, a Certificate of Rehabilitation applies to actual criminal convictions, not just arrests."

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):

  • prevents state licensing agencies from automatically denying you a license,5
  • prevents prior felony convictions from being used to impeach your credibility as a witness (∗ as long as you additionally receive a California Governor's Pardon),6
  • relieves certain sex offenders of their duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290 PC7 (∗exclusions are discussed under section 2. Who is Eligible to Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation), and
  • acts as an automatic application for a Governor's Pardon.8
2. Who is Eligible to Obtain a California
Certificate of Rehabilitation?

You are eligible to obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation if you

  1. were convicted of a felony and sentenced to the California state prison,
  2. have been released from custody, California probation, or California parole and have since remained free of incarceration,
  3. 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
  4. 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).9

OR.if you

  1. 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,
  2. have since been released from custody on probation (and have since remained free from incarceration),
  3. are not on probation for the commission of any other felony,
  4. present proof of a minimum five-year California residency immediately prior to filing for your Certificate, and
  5. present proof of a satisfactory period of rehabilitation.10

How long must you wait before applying?

For Certificate of Rehabilitation applications, a "satisfactory period of rehabilitation" is the time you were free from criminal activity.  This period includes the five years that you were a California resident immediately prior to filing for your Certificate plus an additional.

  1. four years if you were convicted of              


  2. five years if you were convicted of any California sex offense that requires registration as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290 PC, except for             

    • 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,12 or

  3. two years if you were convicted of any offense not listed above.13

Who is ineligible?

You are not eligible to receive a California Certificate of Rehabilitation if you

  1. don't meet the above criteria,
  2. were only convicted of a misdemeanor (unless it is one of the misdemeanor sex offenses listed in Penal Code 290 PC),
  3. were convicted of one of the following specific California sex crimes:         


  4. are serving a mandatory life parole,
  5. have been sentenced to death, OR
  6. are in the military.14

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.15 Governor's Pardons are discussed under section 3. The Application Process.

3. The Application Process

Once we determine that you meet the eligibility standards, we file a petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation with the California Superior Court.  The petition includes

  • application forms,
  • letters of character, and
  • other relevant documents.16

Upon receipt of the petition, the court sets a hearing date.  Whenever possible, we meet with the prosecuting agency before the hearing in an attempt to gather their support.  At the hearing, we present the most favorable evidence to convince the judge to grant your Certificate of Rehabilitation.

Typically, it takes us about 120 days from the time we file the motion to the time when we attend the hearing, although that varies from county to county.  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.17

Governor's Pardons

A Governor's Pardon is the ultimate relief from the penalties and disabilities associated with a criminal conviction.18 And although the Certificate of Rehabilitation is 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.19

The exception to this rule is that if you have been twice convicted of any felony. In that case, you must have the recommendation of a majority of the California Supreme Court before the Governor can pardon you without further review.20

And where a Certificate of Rehabilitation doesn't offer relief to

  1. persons who have been sentenced to death, or
  2. 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 Governor's Pardon does.21 For more information on Governor's Pardons, please review our article on California Governor's Pardons.

Call us for help.
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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code Sections 4852.01 - 4852.21 PC and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions relating to sealing Nevada criminal records.  For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.22 For information about Certificates of Good Conduct in Nevada, go to our article on Certificates of Good Conduct in Nevada.

Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Penal Code 4852.05 - Conduct for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.  ("The person shall live an honest and upright life, shall conduct himself or herself with sobriety and industry, shall exhibit a good moral character, and shall conform to and obey the laws of the land.")

3Ventura County criminal defense attorney Darrell York uses his former experience as a Glendale Police Officer to represent clients at the Ventura Hall of Justice, the Van Nuys courthouse, the Pasadena courthouse, the Burbank courthouse, the Glendale courthouse, the Lancaster courthouse, the San Fernando courthouse, and the Criminal Courts Building.

4California Penal Code 4852.13 PC -- Certificate of rehabilitation; filing; petition to rescind.  ("(a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (b), if after hearing, the court finds that the petitioner has demonstrated by his or her course of conduct his or her rehabilitation and his or her fitness to exercise all of the civil and political rights of citizenship, the court may make an order declaring that the petitioner has been rehabilitated, and recommending that the Governor grant a full pardon to the petitioner. This order shall be filed with the clerk of the court, and shall be known as a certificate of rehabilitation. (b) No certificate of rehabilitation shall be granted to a person convicted of any offense specified in Section 290 if the court determines that the petitioner presents a continuing threat to minors of committing any of the offenses specified in Section 290.")

5California Business and Professions Code 480 PC -- Acts disqualifying applicant.  ("(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, no person shall be denied a license solely on the basis that he or she has been convicted of a felony if he or she has obtained a certificate of rehabilitation under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3 of the Penal Code or that he or she has been convicted of a misdemeanor if he or she has met all applicable requirements of the criteria of rehabilitation developed by the board to evaluate the rehabilitation of a person when considering the denial of a license under subdivision (a) of Section 482.")

6California Evidence Code 788 -- Prior felony conviction.  ("For the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness, it may be shown by the examination of the witness or by the record of the judgment that he has been convicted of a felony unless.(b) A certificate of rehabilitation and pardon has been granted to the witness under the provisions of Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3 of the Penal Code.")

7California Penal Code 290.5 PC -- Pardon or California certificate of rehabilitation; relief from duty to register.  ("(a)(1) A person required to register under Section 290 for an offense not listed in paragraph (2), upon obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3, shall be relieved of any further duty to register under Section 290 if he or she is not in custody, on parole, or on probation.")

8California Penal Code 4852.16 PC -- Pardon; California certificate of rehabilitation as application; issuance; recommendation.  ("The certified copy of a certificate of rehabilitation transmitted to the Governor shall constitute an application for a full pardon upon receipt of which the Governor may, without any further investigation, issue a pardon to the person named therein, except that, pursuant to Section 8 of Article V of the Constitution, the Governor shall not grant a pardon to any person twice convicted of felony, except upon the written recommendation of a majority of the judges of the Supreme Court.")

9California Penal Code 4852.01 PC -- Petition for California certificate of rehabilitation and pardon; application of chapter; gubernatorial pardon.  ("(a) Any person convicted of a felony who has been released from a state prison or other state penal institution or agency in California, whether discharged on completion of the term for which he or she was sentenced or released on parole prior to May 13, 1943, who has not been incarcerated in a state prison or other state penal institution or agency since his or her release and who presents satisfactory evidence of a three-year residence in this state immediately prior to the filing of the petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon provided for by this chapter, may file the petition pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. (b) Any person convicted of a felony who, on May 13, 1943, was confined in a state prison or other institution or agency to which he or she was committed and any person convicted of a felony after that date who is committed to a state prison or other institution or agency may file a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.")

See also California Penal Code 4852.03 PC -- Period of rehabilitation; determination of period.  ("(5) Any person who was discharged after completion of his or her term or was released on parole before May 13, 1943, is not subject to the periods of rehabilitation set forth in these rules.")

See also California Penal Code 4852.06 PC -- Petition for ascertainment and declaration of rehabilitation and for certificate; time for filing.  ("Except as provided in subdivision (a) of Section 4852.01, after the expiration of the minimum period of rehabilitation applicable to him or her (and, in the case of persons released upon parole or probation, after the termination of parole or probation), each person who has complied with the requirements of Section 4852.05 may file in the superior court of the county in which he or she then resides a petition for ascertainment and declaration of the fact of his or her rehabilitation and of matters incident thereto, and for a certificate of rehabilitation under this chapter. No petition shall be filed until and unless the petitioner has continuously resided in this state, after leaving prison, for a period of not less than five years immediately preceding the date of filing the petition.")

10California Penal Code 4852.01 PC -- Petition for California certificate of rehabilitation and pardon; application of chapter; gubernatorial pardon, endnote 9, above.  ("(c) Any person convicted of a felony or any person who is convicted of a misdemeanor violation of any sex offense specified in Section 290, the accusatory pleading of which has been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4, may file a petition for certificate of rehabilitation and pardon pursuant to the provisions of this chapter if the petitioner has not been incarcerated in any prison, jail, detention facility, or other penal institution or agency since the dismissal of the accusatory pleading and is not on probation for the commission of any other felony, and the petitioner presents satisfactory evidence of five years residence in this state prior to the filing of the petition.")

11California Penal Code 4852.03, endnote 9, above.  ("(a) The period of rehabilitation shall begin to run upon the discharge of the petitioner from custody due to his or her completion of the term to which he or she was sentenced or upon his or her release on parole or probation, whichever is sooner. For purposes of this chapter, the period of rehabilitation shall constitute five years' residence in this state, plus a period of time determined by the following rules: (1) To the five years there shall be added four years in the case of any person convicted of violating Section [Penal Code] 187 [PC Murder], [Penal Code] 209 ]PC aggravated kidnapping], 219, 4500 or [Penal Code] 12310 [PC acts involving explosives or destructive devices causing death, mayhem, or great bodily injury] of this code, or subdivision (a) of Section 1672 of the Military and Veterans Code, or of committing any other offense which carries a life sentence.")

12See same.  ("(2) To the five years there shall be added five years in the case of any person convicted of committing any offense or attempted offense for which sex offender registration is required pursuant to Section 290, except for convictions for violations of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) of Section 311.2, or of Section 311.3, 311.10 [that is, violations of Penal Code 311 California's child pornography laws] , or 314. For those convictions, two years shall be added to the five years imposed by this section.")

13See same.  ("(3) To the five years there shall be added two years in the case of any person convicted of committing any offense that is not listed in paragraph (1) or paragraph (2) and that does not carry a life sentence.")

14See same.  ("(d) This chapter shall not apply to persons serving a mandatory life parole, persons committed under death sentences, persons convicted of a violation of subdivision (c) of Section 286 [sodomy with a minor], Section 288 [lewd acts with a minor (a.k.a. child molestation)], subdivision (c) of Section 288a [oral copulation with a minor], Section 288.5, or subdivision (j) of Section 289, or persons in the military service.")

15See same.  ("(e) Notwithstanding the above provisions or any other provision of law, the Governor shall have the right to pardon a person convicted of a violation of subdivision (c) of Section 286, Section 288, subdivision (c) of Section 288a, Section 288.5, or subdivision (j) of Section 289, if there are extraordinary circumstances.")

16California Penal Code 4852.1 PC -- Testimony; documentary evidence; production of records and reports.  ("The court in which the petition [for a California certificate of rehabilitation] is filed may require such testimony as it deems necessary, and the production, for the use of the court and without expense of any kind to the petitioner, of all records and reports relating to the petitioner and the crime of which he was convicted, including the record of the trial, the report of the probation officer, if any, the records of the prison, jail, detention facility or other penal institution from which the petitioner has been released showing his conduct during the time he was there, the records of the penal institution or agency doctor and psychiatrist, the records of the parole officer concerning him if he was released on parole, the records of the Youth Authority concerning him if he has been committed to the authority, and written reports or records of any other law enforcement agency concerning the conduct of the petitioner since his release on probation or parole or discharge from custody. All persons having custody of any such records shall make them available for the use of the court in the proceeding.")

17See endnote 8, above.

18California Penal Code 4852.17 PC -- Report of California certificate of rehabilitation or pardon; rights restored by pardon; exceptions.  ("Whenever a person is granted a full and unconditional pardon by the Governor, based upon a certificate of rehabilitation, the pardon shall entitle the person to exercise thereafter all civil and political rights of citizenship, including but not limited to: (1) the right to vote; (2) the right to own, possess, and keep any type of firearm that may lawfully be owned and possessed by other citizens; except that this right shall not be restored, and Sections 12001 and 29800 shall apply, if the person was ever convicted of a felony involving the use of a dangerous weapon.")

See also California Penal Code 4853 PC -- Restoration of rights, privileges and franchises; exceptions.  ("In all cases in which a full pardon has been granted by the Governor of this state or will hereafter be granted by the Governor to a person convicted of an offense to which the pardon applies, it shall operate to restore to the convicted person, all the rights, privileges, and franchises of which he or she has been deprived in consequence of that conviction or by reason of any matter involved therein; provided, that nothing herein contained shall abridge or impair the power or authority conferred by law on any board or tribunal to revoke or suspend any right, privilege or franchise for any act or omission not involved in the conviction; provided further, that nothing in this article shall affect any of the provisions of the Medical Practice Act (Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code) or the power or authority conferred by law on the Board of Medical Examiners therein, or the power or authority conferred by law upon any board that issues a certificate which permits any person or persons to apply his or her or their art or profession on the person of another.")

19People v. Ansell (2001) 25 Cal.4th 868, 891.  ("We recognize that a [California] certificate of rehabilitation also serves as a judicial recommendation for a pardon (� 4852.13(a)), and that no similar provision appears in section 4800 et seq. However, regardless of which statutory application procedure is used, and notwithstanding any recommendation by the superior court, the pardon decision is discretionary, and rests ultimately with the Governor.")

See also California Penal Code 4852.16, endnote 8, above.  ("The certified copy of a certificate of rehabilitation transmitted to the Governor shall constitute an application for a full pardon upon receipt of which the Governor may, without any further investigation, issue a pardon to the person named therein, except that, pursuant to Section 8 of Article V of the Constitution, the Governor shall not grant a pardon to any person twice convicted of felony, except upon the written recommendation of a majority of the judges of the Supreme Court.")

20California Constitution, Article V, Section 8.  ("SEC. 8.  (a) Subject to application procedures provided by statute, the Governor, on conditions the Governor deems proper, may grant a reprieve, pardon, and commutation, after sentence, except in case of impeachment.  The Governor shall report to the Legislature each reprieve, pardon, and commutation granted, stating the pertinent facts and the reasons for granting it.  The Governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except on recommendation of the Supreme Court, 4 judges concurring.")

21See same.

See also California Penal Code 4852.01 PC - California Certificate of Rehabilitation, endnote 9, above.  ("e) Notwithstanding the above provisions or any other provision of law, the Governor shall have the right to pardon a person convicted of a violation of [California Penal Code] subdivision (c) of Section 286, Section 288, subdivision (c) of Section 288a, Section 288.5, or subdivision (j) of Section 289, if there are extraordinary circumstances.")

22Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Mike Castillo for any questions relating to Nevada's laws regarding sealing and destroying records. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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