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

 

A California Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court finding that you have been rehabilitated following a criminal conviction.

Benefits of obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation include better employment prospects, fewer obstacles to professional licensing, and--in some cases--an end to the sex offender registration requirement

Plus, if you obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, it will act as an automatic application for a governor's pardon.

In order to receive a California Certificate of Rehabilitation, you must remain free of criminal activity for a required period of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation periods required for various crimes are set forth in the following table:

Type of Offense

Period of Rehabilitation Required to Receive Certificate of Rehabilitation

Murder, aggravated kidnapping, train wrecking, assault likely to cause great bodily injury, acts involving explosives or destructive devices, other offenses carrying a life sentence

Nine years

Sex crimes requiring PC 290 registration, EXCEPT certain PC 311 child porn crimes, sexual exploitation of a child, and PC 314 obscene conduct/indecent exposure

Ten years

All other crimes (including certain PC 311 child porn crimes, sexual exploitation of a child, and PC 314 obscene conduct/indecent exposure)

Seven years

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 address the following:

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

1. What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

A California Certificate of Rehabilitation is one method of clearing your criminal record in California.

A Certificate of Rehabilitation doesn't erase your criminal record. But it is a court order stating that your criminal history is just that.a thing of the past. Basically, a Certificate of Rehabilitation declares that you are now a law abiding citizen.2

As Ventura criminal defense attorney John Murray3 explains,

"A Certificate of Rehabilitation 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 PC discuss how to obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation and who is eligible to do so.

Gavel-representing-court
A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court's finding that you have moved beyond your criminal history.

1.1. What are the benefits of a California Certificate of Rehabilitation?

Some of the benefits of a California Certificate of Rehabilitation include:

  • preventing state licensing agencies from automatically denying you a license,5
  • preventing prior felony convictions from being used to impeach your credibility as a witness (provided that you receive a California governor's pardon after you receive your Certificate of Rehabilitation),6
  • relieving some (but not all) sex offenders of their duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290 PC7, and
  • acting 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 meet one of the following two sets of criteria.

The first group eligible to receive Certificates of Rehabilitation are those who:

  1. were convicted of a felony and sentenced to California state prison or to county jail under California's realignment program,
  2. have been released from custody, California probation, or California parole,
  3. present proof that they have been a California resident for a minimum of five years immediately prior to applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (or three years if they were placed on parole), and
  4. present proof of a satisfactory period of rehabilitation which begins from the day they were released from custody (unless they were released from custody or placed on parole prior to May 13, 1943, in which case, they must only present proof that they were a California resident for three years immediately prior to their application for a Certificate of Rehabilitation).9
Prison-fence-and-watchtower
California Certificates of Rehabilitation are available both to those who served felony prison sentences and those who were sentenced to felony probation

The second group of people who may obtain Certificates of Rehabilitation are those who:

  1. were convicted of a felony for which they 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 or probation,
  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 applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, and
  5. present proof of a satisfactory period of rehabilitation.10

How long must you wait before applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

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 (4) years if you were convicted of              

    1. Penal Code 187 PC murder,
    2. Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping,
    3. Penal Code 219 PC train derailing or wrecking,
    4. Penal Code 4500 PC assault with means of force likely to cause great bodily injury,
    5. Penal Code 12310 PC acts involving explosives or destructive devices causing death, mayhem, or great bodily injury,
    6. Military and Veterans Code 1672(a) acts or failing to act that causes another person's death, or
    7. any other offense that carries a life sentence,11
  2. five (5) 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, which only require an additional two (2)-year period),12 or
  3. two (2) years if you were convicted of any offense not listed above.13

Who is ineligible to receive a California Certificate of Rehabilitation?

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 serving in the military.14
California-governor-seal
People convicted of certain sex offenses must seek a governor's pardon instead of a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

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 (discussed in Section 3, below).15

3. How Do I Apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

If you meet the eligibility standards, you may apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation by filing a petition 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, our criminal defense attorneys try to meet with the prosecuting agency before the hearing in an attempt to gather their support.

At the hearing, we then present the most favorable evidence for convincing 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.

Courtroom-interior
Most applicants for Certificates of Rehabilitation must attend their hearings in court.

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 means that the court has recommended that you receive 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 the following 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 

Call us for help . . . 

criminal-defense-firm-call-center

If you or a loved one is interested in applying for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation 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.

For information about Certificates of Good Conduct in Nevada, go to our article on Certificates of Good Conduct in Nevada.


Legal References:

  1. Our 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.
  2. California 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.")
  3. Ventura County criminal defense attorney John Murray has extensive experience representing clients fighting charges and seeking relief like Certificates of Rehabilitation 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.
  4. California 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.")
  5. California 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.")
  6. California 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.")
  7. California 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.")
  8. California 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.")
  9. California 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 is committed to a state prison or other institution or agency, including commitment to a county jail pursuant to subdivision (7) of Section 1170, may file a petition for 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.")

  10. California Penal Code 4852.01 PC -- Petition for California certificate of rehabilitation and pardon; application of chapter; gubernatorial pardon.  ("(b) 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.")

    But see People v. Chatman (2016) 206 Cal.Rptr.3d 322 (holding that it is a violation of equal protection to require that applicants for Certificates of Rehabilitation under subdivision (b) of PC 4852.01 remain free from incarceration when there is no comparable requirement for applications under subdivision (a) of PC 4852.01).

  11. California Penal Code 4852.03 PC -- -- Period of rehabilitation [required to receive a certificate of rehabilitation]; determination of period.  ("(a) The period of rehabilitation [required to obtain a certificate 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.")
  12. California Penal Code 4852.03 PC -- -- Period of rehabilitation [required to receive a certificate of rehabilitation]; determination of period.  ("(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.")
  13. California Penal Code 4852.03 PC -- -- Period of rehabilitation [required to receive a certificate of rehabilitation]; determination of period.  ("(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.")
  14. California Penal Code 4852.03 PC -- -- Period of rehabilitation [required to receive a certificate of rehabilitation]; determination of period.  ("(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.")
  15. California Penal Code 4852.03 PC -- -- Period of rehabilitation [required to receive a certificate of rehabilitation]; determination of period.  ("(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.")
  16. California 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.")
  17. See endnote 8, above.
  18. California 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.

  19. People 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.")

  20. California Constitution, Article V, Section 8.  
  21. See same.

    See also California Penal Code 4852.01 PC - California Certificate of Rehabilitation.  ("(d) 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.")

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