Certificate of Rehabilitation (Penal Code 4852)

What is Penal Code 4852 (Certificate of Rehabilitation)?

A Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) is one of the many strategies available under California law to clear your criminal history.  However, it is important to clearly understand that a Certificate of Rehabilitation will not delete your criminal history.  Rather, it will serve as an official court document indicating that you are currently an upstanding member of society.  It is a legal document issued by a judge when they determine, after an application and/or a legal hearing, that you have been rehabilitated.  If a Certificate of Rehabilitation is granted by a court, then the Certificate of Rehabilitation will automatically serve as an application for a governor’s pardon.

The laws codifying the powers and regulations surrounding the Certificate of Rehabilitation are formalized in California Penal Code Sections 4852.01 to 4852.21 PC.

What are the advantages of obtaining a California Penal Code 4852 Certificate of Rehabilitation?

One of the primary benefits of a Certificate of Rehabilitation is that it automatically opens the door for a governor’s pardon.  In fact, for most defendants, a Certificate of Rehabilitation is the only avenue in which to obtain a governor’s pardon. 

On its own, a Certificate of Rehabilitation carries significant advantages.  For example, a state licensing organization cannot deny you a license on the basis of a conviction to an offense alone if you have a Certificate of Rehabilitation for that conviction. 

Additionally, if you are required by law to register as a sex offender due to a sex crime conviction, a Certificate of Rehabilitation might remove that duty to register.  You will be no longer mandated to register as a sex offender if all of the following requirements are met:

  • You are not on parole, on probation, or in custody.
  • The conviction in which you obtained a Certificate of Rehabilitation is outlined in Penal Code 290, but not including any of the following: Kidnapping conducted with the intent to commit rape or sodomy, lascivious acts with a person under the age of 18, oral copulation, or sexual penetration using an object, assault with the intent to conduct a sex offense, sexual battery (felony only), rape, pimping or pandering (felony only), child trafficking, sexual assault on a child, sodomy by force or on a child (felony only), oral copulation by force or with a child, continuous sexual abuse of a child, a sexual act with a child under 10, or annoying/molesting a child.

Eligibility Requirements for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation

You are eligible for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • You have not been imprisoned or jailed since the end your sentence.
  • You are not currently on probation for a felony conviction.
  • You have lived in the state of California for a minimum of five year uninterrupted years before applying for the California Certificate of Rehabilitation
  • You have been “rehabilitated” for a minimal number of years after your release from custody, parole, or probation. See below for more information.
  • You are not deemed ineligible to obtain a California Certificate of Rehabilitation.
  • For each conviction the California Certificate of Rehabilitation will pertain towards, a minimum of one of the following conditions applies:
  • You were convicted of a felony, sentenced with probation, and the conviction was granted an expungement.
  • You were convicted with a misdemeanor sex conviction that is listed in Penal Code 290 and it was granted an expungement.

You are ineligible for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation if any of the following conditions apply:

  • You received a misdemeanor conviction for a crime other than a sex crime listed in Penal Code 290.
  • You are undergoing compulsory life parole.
  • You were sentenced with the death penalty.
  • You are currently serving in the U.S. military.
  • You were convicted with a federal offense or with any crime outside of California.
  • You were convicted with one of the sex crimes listed here: Penal Code 286(c), sodomy with a child or sodomy by force or threat, Penal Code 288, lewd acts with a child under 14 (a.k.a. child molestation), Penal Code 288a(c), oral copulation with a child or oral copulation by force or threat, Penal Code 288.5, continuous sexual abuse of a child, or Penal Code 289(j), or forcible sexual penetration of a child.
  • You were convicted with a sex crime that would not make you ineligible but the court has ruled that you are still a threat to persons under the age of 18.

Note, that even if you are eligible based on one of the reasons listed above, you could still get relief by obtaining a full pardon from the governor.

When can you seek a California Certificate of Rehabilitation?

Before you can turn in an application for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation

You (or through your lawyer) must show that you have been rehabilitated for a “satisfactory period”.  In general, a “satisfactory period” will be met if you lived in California for a period of five uninterrupted years before applying.  This period of time may be increased anywhere between two to five more years depending on the crime you were convicted of.   The clock for this period of time will begin counting from the moment you finished parole/probation or from the moment you are out of supervision.

Note, that even if you are applying for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation many years after your last conviction, you must have lived in California for at least a minimum of 5 uninterrupted years before applying.

9 Year Waiting Period Offenses

There are some offenses that mandate a minimum of 9 years before you are able to petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation.  All in all, the constitutes the five year residency rule and an extra 4 rehabilitation years.  Talk to your criminal defense attorney to find out which crimes fit this situation.  Some example include: murder, assault with significant physical injury, or any crime that carried a life sentence.

10 Year Waiting Period Offenses

Some sex offense mandate a minimum of 10 years before you can petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation.  All in all, this constitutes the five year residency rule with a rehabilitation time of five more years.  This length of waiting applies to any sex crime in which you are required to register under California’s sex registry laws.

Waiving the Rehabilitation Waiting Period.

California judges have the discretion to issue a California Certificate of Rehabilitation even if the waiting period has not finished.  You (or your lawyer) would have to persuade the judge that waiving the waiting period is in the interests of justice.  Note, judges rarely waive the waiting period.  Plus, if the offense is one that mandates you to register under California’s sex offender registry laws, then the waiting period cannot be waived.

Additional Important Information Pertaining to the California Certificate of Rehabilitation

It does not cost any money to file a California Certificate of Rehabilitation.  Hence, the only cost for filing a petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation will be the fees of your criminal defense attorney.  However, there is no requirement that you utilize the services of an attorney to file a petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation.  But it is important to remember that the judge will have complete discretion in deciding whether or not to grant the California Certificate of Rehabilitation.  Hence, it would probably be a wise decision to utilize the services of a criminal defense attorney.  For honest, candid advice, feel free to talk to one our trusted and experienced attorneys.

Once your petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation is filed, the court will set a hearing date.  Once a hearing date is set, the courts office will automatically notify the Office of the California Governor and the Office of the District Attorney in every county in which a conviction was earned.  Any of these offices have the option of arguing against the granting of the Certificate of Rehabilitation.  At this hearing, your side will be represented by a criminal defense attorney if you choose to retain one.

At the California Certificate of Rehabilitation hearing, the judge will hear arguments from various stakeholders.  This may include the Governor’s Office or District Attorneys from various counties in which you received a conviction.  Fortunately, your attorney will also get an opportunity to present arguments in your favor and to rebut any assertions by the prosecutors.  Note, that most judges require that the petitioner (you) be present at the hearing.  Therefore, your attorney cannot appear alone on your behalf.  You will probably have to show up as well.

Our Criminal Defense Attorneys generally make great efforts to meet with the prosecutors before the hearing.  We believe that in many cases we can persuade prosecutor to support the California Certificate of Rehabilitation by presenting arguments in a non-formal negotiation.  The support of a prosecutor can go a long way in pushing the judge towards granting the California Certificate of Rehabilitation.

In deceiding whether or not to issue the California Certificate of Rehabilitation, the judge will consider a variety of different factors.  This includes, but is not limited to, the following factors:

  • Evidence showing that you are working or in school
  • Your work history or educational background
  • Evidence of volunteer work
  • Letters of support or recommendation from employers, colleagues, professors/teachers, friends, psychologists/psychiatrists, etc.
  • Reasons why you are petitioning for the California Certificate of Rehabilitation
  • Proof that you lived in California for the waiting period
  • Other evidence that could support your character, eligibility and proof of rehabilitation.
  • Your trial history and your minute record of court hearings
  • Your individual criminal records, which will include the individual facts to the various crimes you committed.
  • The severity of the crimes you committed.
  • Your prison history
  • When you last completed probation or parole
  • Your family or social support network
  • The arguments made by the District Attorney or the Governor’s Office.

After applying for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation, it generally takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months to get a decision from a judge.  Most of the time, it takes about 3 months from the petition’s filing to get a hearing date.  However, this time span differs throughout the various counties in California.  Talk to your California Criminal Defense Attorney to get a better idea of how long a California Certificate of Rehabilitation will take in your particular situation.

Consequences of a California Certificate of Rehabilitation Being Granted

 If the judge decides to issue your California Certificate of Rehabilitation, then a copy of the certificiate will automatically be forwarded to the Office of the California Governor, the Parole Board, the Department of Justice, and in some instances the California Supreme Court (if you were convicted of two or more felonies).

If you obtain a Certificate of Rehabiliation, you will be automatically considered for a governor’s pardon.  You do not need to submit any further applications for this pardon.  A governor’s pardon is useful if you want to regain any gun rights you might have lost or to prevent deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen.  In deciding whether to grant the pardon, the governor’s office has the option of seeking documents from the Parole Board.  The decision to grant the pardon is completely within the discretion of the governor’s office.

It is important to under that a California Certificate of Rehabilitation does not get rid of your criminal record.  However, the Department of Justice and the FBI will place a notation that a California Certificate of Rehabilitation has bee issued in conjunction with the offenses listed on the certififcate. 

If the judge decides not to grant the California Certificate of Rehabilitation, then you have the option of appealing his decision.  However, appealing the decision will require a fee to do so.  And again, it is in the court’s bounds of discretion, so it not likely an appeals court will rule in your favor.  It is a better strategy to wait some time and apply again in the future once you can build the evidentiary record in your favor.  Talk to a California Criminal Defense Attorney to get an idea of the likelihood a California Certificate of Rehabilitation will be issued in your favor.

What Should I Do if I Want to Petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation?

Feel free to talk with one of our experienced and passionate California Criminal Defense Attorneys.  Obtaining a California Certificate of Rehabilitation can be a tricky process to navigate.  And it is more common than not prosecutors will challenge your petition.  It is important to have a zealous and intelligent California Criminal Defense Attorney advocating for you.

For a free consultation, call 424-333-0943 to find out how to best clear your criminal record.

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