Sadly, a conviction for any offense, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, can impact your life even after serving your jail term or any other court-ordered sentence because it will remain in your criminal record.
That means anyone interested in your criminal background or history, including potential employers, will know you have a conviction, which can be a barrier to many opportunities in your life. Fortunately, several post-conviction relief options are available to help you improve this situation and put your life back on track for a fresh start.
Obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) is one way to limit the negative consequences caused by a conviction after serving your sentence for any offense. While a COR will not erase your criminal record from the eyes of the public, it will identify you on behalf of the court as an upstanding and law-abiding citizen.
If you want to start the application process for a COR, our credible attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can help you obtain the desired results. Our attorneys understand how your life can change suddenly after a conviction and will work tirelessly to convince the court you are an excellent candidate for this post-conviction relief option.
Benefits of Obtaining a COR
As previously mentioned, a COR is a court-issued certificate that attests that you are a rehabilitated and law-abiding individual after a conviction. In addition to being an automatic application for a governor’s pardon, below are other benefits of obtaining a COR:
1. Another Person Cannot Impeach the Credibility of Your Testimony at Trial for Any Other Case
Once you obtain a COR, other party cannot use your criminal history against you in court. For instance, during a child custody battle at trial, the other party cannot use your past conviction record against you to show the judge you do not deserve custody of your child or children.
2. You Will Have Better Chances of Securing Reliable Employment
Another notable benefit of obtaining a COR is that it will prevent a potential employer from using a conviction record against you during a job interview, increasing your odds of obtaining reliable employment. Further, when seeking a professional license, a licensing agency cannot deny your application based on a criminal history once you receive a COR.
3. You Will No Longer Have to Register as a Sex Offender
In addition to serving jail time, a conviction for sex crimes will also result in inclusion in the sex offender registry. Typically, after inclusion in the national sex offender registry, you must register and update your address with the local law enforcement agency periodically as required.
While the purpose of inclusion in the sex offender registry is to have people with convictions for sex crimes readily available for surveillance by law enforcement at all times, abiding by these lifetime registration duties is stressful.
Unless you have a conviction for particular crimes against children, obtaining a COR can end your legal obligation to register as a sex offender. Common sex crimes that will disqualify you from obtaining relief of your duties to register as a sex offender after obtaining a COR include:
- Sexual assault of a child
- Molesting a child
- Felony sexual battery
What a COR Will Not Do if You Have a Conviction
Like expungement, obtaining a COR does not solve everything. While obtaining a COR has several clear benefits you cannot overlook after paying your dues for a conviction, it also has its limitations. For instance, a COR will not:
Reinstate Your Second (2nd) Amendment Legal Rights
If you are guilty of a felony offense, the court will deny or revoke your rights to own, buy or possess a firearm. You can only reinstate your 2nd amendment legal rights once you receive a Governor’s pardon. Fortunately, you qualify to apply for a Governor’s pardon once you receive your COR.
Prevent Your Conviction from Being a “Prior Offense” in Possible Future Charges
Unfortunately, even after receiving a COR, the court can consider your conviction a “prior offense” when making a sentence decision for any future charge conviction. That means the possible sentence you will receive as a repeat offender will be more severe than you would expect if you were a first-time offender.
Clear Your Criminal Record
Unlike an expungement, obtaining a COR does not prevent the public from accessing your criminal history or record. Hence, any person performing a criminal background check on you will see you have a conviction.
Additionally, like an expungement, you must disclose your conviction history when vying for any public office or applying for a job as a law enforcement officer.
COR Eligibility Criteria
According to PC 4582, you qualify to apply for a COR if you meet any of the requirements listed below:
- You are not on probation for any felony conviction
- You have not served a jail term for any new charge since the completion of your sentence
- You have lived here continuously or uninterrupted for the past five (5) years or at least three (3) years after completing your probation
- You have received adequate rehabilitation for the minimum period required by the court since your discharge from prison
- You have successfully served your felony probation or were guilty of a misdemeanor sex crime specified under PC 290, which you have already expunged from your criminal record
- You have waited for the minimum additional period required, depending on your case severity
It is worth noting that not every person qualifies to obtain a COR. Several factors can make you ineligible for this post-conviction relief option, including:
- You are currently in the military
- You are currently serving a mandatory life sentence
- You have a death sentence
- You have a conviction for a serious sex crime, for example, especially where a minor is involved
- You have a conviction for a qualifying sex crime, but the court considers you an ongoing danger to minors (under 18)
- You have a conviction for a misdemeanor crime other than the ones listed under PC 290
Fortunately, when you are ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation due to a sex offense involving a child or minor, you can still qualify for a governor’s pardon. If you are unsure of your eligibility for a COR, you should speak with an attorney. A skilled defense attorney will review your case’s particulars and facts to determine whether you are an excellent candidate for this post-conviction relief option.
Waiting Period That You Must Satisfy or Meet Before You Apply for a COR
When applying for a COR, you should be ready to prove that you have received rehabilitation for a “satisfactory minimum period” required by the court to obtain a COR. Typically, the period of rehabilitation will begin to run immediately on the specific date you:
- Received a discharge or release from jail
- Completed your probation
- Were discharged from mandatory supervision
The purpose of this waiting period when applying for a COR is to help the court determine whether you are mentally ready to make positive changes in your life for a fresh start after serving your sentence. On top of the mandatory five years of residency, you must wait an additional two, four, or five years before filing a COR petition, depending on your case’s severity.
That means the total waiting period you must satisfy before filing a COR petition can be seven, nine, or ten years, respectively. Here is a breakdown, providing the total waiting period you must satisfy before applying for a COR:
Up to Nine-Year Total Waiting Period
Particular offenses will require you to wait for up to nine years before petitioning the court to obtain a COR. Some of these offenses include (but are not limited to):
- Assault causing significant bodily injury
- Train mayhem
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Any offense punishable by life imprisonment
Up to Ten Years Total Waiting Period
If you have a conviction for any sex crime where the registration as a sex offender is a mandatory requirement, the court will require that you wait for a maximum of ten years before filing a COR petition. However, the court could exempt you from this ten-year waiting period if you have a conviction for one of the following offenses:
- Indecent exposure
- Child pornography
- Obscene conduct
Unlike most sex crimes, the offenses mentioned above will attract an additional two-year waiting period.
Up to Seven Years Total Waiting Period
Typically, all other crimes will require you to wait for a maximum of seven years before filing your COR petition to put your life back on track after serving your sentence for a conviction.
It is worth noting that this maximum period is the sum of the total rehabilitation period for your unique case and five years of residency. If you have not met the required satisfactory waiting period for your unique offense, the judge can deny your COR petition, even if you have met all other eligibility requirements.
Under certain circumstances, the court could still give you a waiver of this rehabilitation period to obtain a COR if your defense attorney can prove this decision will serve the interests of justice.
How to Apply for a COR
If you are eligible for a COR, you can file your petition with the superior court once you complete the required satisfactory rehabilitation period for your unique case to obtain a fresh start. Here is a step-by-step guide for applying for a COR:
Complete and Submit the Required Paperwork
The first step when applying for this form of post-conviction relief is obtaining the necessary petition document from the high court within your county of residence. Below are the documents you must complete when applying for a COR:
- Petition for COR and Governor’s pardon
- Notice of filing of your COR and Governor’s pardon petition
If you have an attorney, he/she can obtain, complete, and file the necessary paperwork on your behalf to obtain a fresh start in your life.
Obtain a Copy of Your Criminal History
Along with your petition for a COR, you must submit a copy of your criminal record detailing all the crimes or convictions you want the court to consider. Below is vital information the court will require:
- Specific charge(s) you were guilty of
- The date of your conviction (s)
- The county where your conviction occurred
- The date of discharge from probation
- The sentence you received
- The date of your release from jail
Fortunately, you can file a single petition even if you want a COR for more than one crime or conviction.
Gather Your Proof Rehabilitation
Since the court will not grant you a COR without adequate proof of rehabilitation, you should begin collecting the necessary evidence ahead of time. The more evidence you have to strengthen your argument, the higher the odds of securing a COR. Evidence that can help convince the court you are now a rehabilitated and law-abiding citizen includes the following:
- Letters of recommendation from prison psychologists, family, friends, teachers, and co-workers
- Documentation that can prove you have had consistent education or employment since your release from prison
- Documentation showing your volunteerism, for example, in churches, mosques, and non-profit organizations
- Documentation showing your involvement in your children’s life
- Documentation showing your active participation in alcohol counseling, drug counseling, or anger/domestic abuse counseling
Attend COR Court Hearing
Once you file your COR petition, the court could schedule a proceeding to determine whether you deserve this post-conviction relief after serving your sentence and satisfying the necessary rehabilitation period. Some of the factors the judge will consider at this hearing include the following:
- Your proof rehabilitation
- Your jail record
- Your trial record
- Community and family ties
- Your criminal record and the severity of your conviction
- Arguments from the district attorney (DA) involved in your case or conviction, if any
This hearing will be your chance to convince the judge why you are an excellent candidate to receive a COR after serving your sentence. If the court decides not to grant a COR, your attorney can help you appeal the decision. However, unlike filing a petition, you will have to pay a fee to file your appeal.
Since the court has total discretion to grant or deny your COR petition, chances are the decision of the appeals court will not be in your favor. That is why it is critical to have an experienced attorney on your side during this hearing to help convince the court that you deserve this post-conviction relief for a fresh start.
Other Post Convictions Relief Options You Can Consider to Clear Your Criminal Record
Fortunately, there are other post-conviction relief options you can consider if you are ineligible for a COR to reduce the negative impacts of a conviction, including:
Reducing Your Felony to a Misdemeanor
One way to lessen the impact of a conviction is to have your charge reduced to a misdemeanor. According to PC 17(b), you could qualify to have your felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor if the following is true:
- The underlying offense is a wobbler
- You received probation after a felony conviction
For the sake of PC 17(b), a wobbler is any offense that the prosecutor can file as either a felony or a misdemeanor, for example:
- Criminal threats
- Spousal battery
When deciding whether to grant your PC 17(b) petition, the court will consider the factors listed below:
- Your criminal history
- Whether you violated any requirements and terms of your felony probation
- Your case’s unique facts
- The nature and severity of your offense
If the court grants your PC 17(b) petition, your criminal background or record will show a prior misdemeanor conviction instead of a felony conviction. While a misdemeanor conviction will remain on your background check, the collateral consequences of this conviction are less severe than the ones you are likely to face if you have a felony conviction on your record.
Obtaining an Expungement of Your Criminal Record
Filing a petition to have your conviction or criminal record expunged could help you get your life back on track after serving your sentence. Expungement is the legal process of sealing and clearing a criminal record from public view after a conviction.
Once you obtain an expungement of your criminal record under PC 1203.4, members of the public will no longer see it when they conduct a background check on you. Having your conviction expunged will offer you several benefits that COR does not, including:
- It protects you against discrimination based on your expunged conviction(s)
- It makes it easier and less of a hassle to secure a professional license
- It prevents your expunged conviction(s) from being used to impeach the credibility of your testimony in court
- It can prevent deportation and other immigration consequences you are likely to face after a conviction for particular offenses
Obtaining an expungement can restore your legal rights to possess, own, and buy a firearm. However, you have to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor, as explained in the previous section. Generally speaking, you are likely to qualify for an expungement under PC 1204.4 if the following is true:
- You do not have any additional charges or conviction
- You can retain or hold on to employment
- You have completed community service
- You are not on probation for any charge conviction,
- You did not serve your sentence in the state prison upon conviction
Since obtaining an expungement is a paper-intensive process, you could want to work with an attorney to increase your odds of qualifying for this post-conviction relief option.
Sealing and Destroying an Arrest Record
According to PC 851.87, you have a legal right to file a motion with the court for the sealing and destruction of your arrest record. Sealing a criminal record means any person conducting a background check on you will not know you have an arrest history. Your records of arrest that will be sealed and destroyed include the following:
- Police reports
- Booking photos “mugshots”
- Rap sheet entries
Generally speaking, you are eligible to have your entire arrest record sealed if any of the following circumstances or facts are true in your unique case:
- The prosecutor did not file criminal charges against you after your arrest
- The prosecutor filed criminal charges against you, but the court dismissed the case later in the interest of justice
- You received a “not guilty” verdict in a bench trial or jury trial for the alleged offense
- Your conviction was overturned or vacated after filing an appeal
- You completed a pre-trial diversion program successfully, for example, drug diversion under PC 1000
Once your arrest record is sealed and destroyed, you can confidently say that you have never had an arrest, which can be beneficial when applying for school, employment, housing, or a professional license.
If you have a sustained juvenile petition on your record, you could also qualify to have your arrest history sealed if:
- You never had a conviction for a CIMT (crime involving moral turpitude) offense as an adult
- You are eighteen years or older
- The underlying offense was not particularly a serious offense, for example, torture, murder, or robbery
Obtaining a Commutation of Your Sentence
If you are still serving prison or jail time, you could qualify to have your sentence commuted or lessened by Governor Gavin Newsom to reduce the consequences of a conviction. While a commutation of sentence will not restore your civil rights, it can lessen your sentence or increase your chances of qualifying for probation.
In general, anyone convicted of a crime is eligible for a sentence reduction, unless your conviction was for:
- A military offense
- A federal offense
A skilled attorney can help you determine the best course of action if you want to reduce the impact of a criminal conviction on your life.
Find a Defense Attorney Near Me
Securing a certificate of rehabilitation can offer you the relief you need from the burdens and disabilities caused by a conviction. However, obtaining this certificate is not automatic because the prosecutor can challenge your petition.
That is where we at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney intervene to help you prepare a viable petition and increase your chances of qualifying for this post-conviction relief option. We invite you to call us at 424-333-0943 to discuss your conviction or criminal case details with our credible attorneys.
Our attorneys will aggressively fight on your behalf to obtain the best possible outcome on your petition for a COR.