If you have been convicted of a felony or certain sex offenses, a California certificate of rehabilitation might be beneficial in helping you move past the conviction so you can get on with your life. Aside from making it easier for you to apply for jobs and professional licenses, getting a certificate of rehabilitation serves as an automatic application for a governor’s pardon. If you have are subject to registration as a sex offender, this may also relieve you of your duty to register.
What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
At its most basic, a certificate of rehabilitation says that someone who has been convicted of a criminal act has paid for their crimes and is now an upstanding member of the community. It is important to recognize that this does not seal or erase your criminal record. That being said, after obtaining such a certificate, you cannot be denied a professional license based solely on your conviction and this may also help you show prospective employers that you are now a law-abiding citizen worthy of a second chance.
A rehabilitation certificate will also restore your gun rights, but only in cases where the offense itself did not actually involve a firearm or other dangerous weapon.
You Will No Longer Need to Register as a Sex Offender
One of the biggest benefits of obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation is that you will no longer be required to register as a sex offender. California penal code section 290 specifies that the majority sex offenders will be relieved of the need to register. There are exceptions though. Those convicted of the following crimes must receive a full pardon from the governor in order to be able to be relieved from their duty to register on a yearly basis:
- Kidnapping with the intent to commit a sex crime
- Assault with the intent to commit a sex offense
- Felony sexual battery
- Felony pimping or pandering
- Sodomy by force
- Oral copulation by force
- Many crimes against children including human trafficking, sexual assault, lewd acts, sodomy, oral copulation continuous sexual abuse, annoying or molesting, any sex act with a child under 10
Who Qualifies for a Certificate of Rehabilitation in California?
Just because you completed your sentence for you criminal offense doesn’t mean you are actually eligible for a California certificate of rehabilitation. To qualify, you must have committed a felony and been sentenced to serve time in a state prison or county jail; or you could have a felony conviction and have been sentenced to probation and had the conviction expunged; or you may have been convicted of certain misdemeanor sex crimes and had your record expunged.
You also must undergo a “period of rehabilitation,” meaning you must wait a set period of time before applying for your certificate. The period will vary based on the crime you were convicted of. You will need to wait at least 7 years for most offenses before filing, but you must wait 9 years in cases involving charges for many violent crimes (including murder, aggravated kidnapping, assault likely to cause serious bodily injury, acts involving explosives and crimes that carry life sentences) or 10 years for most sex crimes. In some limited cases, the courts may waive these waiting periods, but not in cases where the offender was required to register on the sex crimes list.
Even then, not everyone who meets the above qualifications will be eligible to obtain a California certificate of rehabilitation. The following people will be ineligible to apply for a certificate:
- Those convicted of a misdemeanor other than a sex offense specified under California Penal Code section 290
- Those who have been incarcerated for a new offense since they served out their sentence
- Those serving time on parole or probation for a felony
- Those sentenced to death
- Those who have are on mandatory life parole
- Anyone who served in the military
- Those convicted of the following sex crimes: oral copulation, sodomy or forceible sexual penetration with a child by force or threat (287(c) PC, 286(c) PC, 289(j)), lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 (commonly called “child molestation” and filed under 288 (PC)), oral copulation or the continuous sexual abuse of a child (288.5 (PC)
- Those convicted of any sex crime where the court has determined them to be an ongoing threat to minors.
Many of those who are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation may still be able to get a pardon directly from the governor’s office.
How to Apply for a Rehabilitation Certificate
First, visit the relevant court website for the county where you currently reside. San Diego County residents can find information here. You may need to obtain a copy of your criminal record through your local court or the California Department of justice in order to get all relevant information necessary to fill out the application. That is because this will ask for information related to your conviction, sentence, release date, probation and parole and more.
While you do not need a criminal defense lawyer to fill out these applications, they are particularly complex and even a small error could result in your petition getting denied. Additionally, you will usually be required to attend a hearing to help the judge determine if you should be granted a certificate. Because the district attorney will be there, it can often be beneficial to have an attorney represent you in this hearing, though you will not be granted a court-appointed lawyer if you cannot afford one yourself.
The court will ultimately make its decision based on how you have handled yourself since you served your sentence as well as information related to your original offense and your prison record. If you have done volunteer work, entered school, maintained a good employment history or have many letters of recommendation from friends, employers and family members, these things can help your case.
If you have any questions about obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation in California, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with attorney Peter M. Liss.