Certificate of Rehabilitation and/or Governor’s Pardon FAQ
(Penal Code Sections 4800 et seq, 4853)
A Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) is a court order declaring a person convicted of a crime is now rehabilitated. It is generally the second step in cleaning up a record for those who were convicted of felonies but had the case dismissed/expunged or the first step for those who were convicted of felonies and were sent to state prison. People convicted of a limited number of misdemeanor sex offenses may also apply for a COR. Note: getting a COR does not seal or remove anything from your record but it may help with applying for work, housing, and professional licenses.
As a general rule, if you were convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanor sex crimes you may apply to the Superior Court in the county where you live for a COR, provided you meet the legal requirements of demonstrated rehabilitation.
A COR, if granted, automatically becomes an application for a Governor’s Pardon. The Governor’s receipt of a COR is not a guarantee that a pardon will be granted.
A pardon is a declaration by the governor that recognizes the efforts of the applicant to return to the status of exemplary, law abiding, productive citizen and restores to the applicant some of the rights of citizenship forfeited as a result of a conviction. It is the last step in cleaning up a criminal record. A pardon does not make your record disappear, but it is the best criminal record relief you can get in California to show you have been rehabilitated.
Pardons are very rarely granted. Applicants must demonstrate exemplary behavior following a conviction to be considered. Generally, you must be off probation or parole for at least 10 years with no further criminal activity to be considered.
If you were convicted of a felony and went to state or local prison on the case to be eligible you must:
· Be off of parole, post release community supervision, or mandatory supervision; and
· Have lived continuously in California for the last five years.
If you were convicted of a felony and granted probation to be eligible you must:
· Not have been jailed or imprisoned since getting your conviction dismissed/expunged (this requirement is currently being challenged in the California Supreme Court, and therefore may change in the future); and
· Not currently be on probation for any other felony; and
· Have lived in California continuously for the last five years;
· There is ambiguity in the law, but we recommend you have the case dismissed/expunged BEFORE applying for a COR if you are eligible. (See Expungement (Dismissal) of Criminal Convictions FAQ). If your case is eligible for a reduction to a misdemeanor, you may seek that relief as well, even though, if granted you will then be ineligible to apply for a COR. Generally, getting a reduction to a misdemeanor and having a case dismissed is much easier (and can happen much earlier) than getting a COR. However, if you intend to apply for a professional license in the future, a COR may be better for you than getting a reduction to a misdemeanor. We recommend you consult with lawyer if you anticipate seeking a professional license.
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense to be eligible you must:
· Have the case dismissed/expunged BEFORE applying for a COR. See Expungement (Dismissal) of Criminal Convictions FAQ; and
· Not have been jailed or imprisoned since getting your conviction dismissed/expunged; and
· Not currently be on probation for any other felony; and
· Have lived in California continuously for the last five years.
For all COR’s there is also a waiting period before you can apply.
The waiting period is called the “period of rehabilitation.” During this time you need to show you have stayed out of trouble and made significant improvements in living the life of an upstanding citizen. The law says “[t]he 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.” (Cal Pen Code § 4852.05)
In general, the minimum period of rehabilitation (waiting period) is seven years. Some convictions have even longer periods of rehabilitation. For example, for most (but not all) offenses for which you are required to register as a sex offender you must wait ten years. The period of rehabilitation begins the date you are released from custody (not the date you get off of probation/parole/or other type of supervision). This means you generally must wait a minimum of seven years after you are released from prison/jail before you can apply. In some extreme circumstances, a judge may consider your request for a COR earlier, but that is extraordinarily rare.
There are some people who cannot get a COR. You cannot get a COR if:
· You were convicted of certain serious sex offenses (Penal Code § 269, 286(c), 288, 288a(c), 288.5, 288.7, 289(j)) (you may apply directly for a Governor’s Pardon); or
· You are currently serving in the military (if you are in the military, you may apply directly for a Governor’s Pardon); or
· You live outside California (if you live outside California, you may apply directly for a Governor’s Pardon); or
· You were convicted of a misdemeanor that is not one of the specified misdemeanor sex offenses; or
· If you were originally convicted of a felony, but the judge later reduced it to a misdemeanor you are no longer eligible to get a COR for that case (unless it is a sex offense listed in Penal Code § 290).
A COR is a court order saying you have been officially rehabilitated. It restores some rights of citizenship that were forfeited as a result of a conviction. It can:
· Serve as an official document to demonstrate your rehabilitation which may improve housing and job opportunities;
· Enhance your potential for licensing consideration by a state board;
· Relieve some sex offenders of further duty to register;
· Serve as an automatic application and recommendation for a Governor’s pardon.
· It does not erase a conviction or seal the criminal record;
· It will not prevent the offense from being considered as a prior conviction (if you are later convicted of a new offense);
· It does not allow you to claim on employment applications that you have no record of conviction (unless the court has already granted a dismissal/expungement);
· It may not get rid of your sex offender registration requirement. Only some people who get a COR no longer have to register;
· It does not restore the right to own or possess firearms.
· It allows someone who has been convicted of a felony to serve on a jury;
· It can allow restoration of firearms rights, upon federal approval, to specified offenders if granted a full and unconditional pardon, unless the conviction was for a felony involving the use of a dangerous weapon;
· It allows a felon to be considered for appointment as a county probation officer or a state parole agent, but not to other law enforcement positions;
· It allows specified sex offenders still required to register after obtaining a COR to be relieved of their duty to register if granted a full and unconditional pardon.
· It does not seal or erase the record of conviction;
· It does not prevent the pardoned offense from being considered as a prior conviction if there is a later conviction of a new offense;
· It does not allow a pardoned person to answer that he/she has no record of conviction on employment applications (unless the court has already granted a dismissal/expungement);
· It does not restore the ability to own a firearm to any felon convicted of any offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon;
· It does not pardon convictions from another state or the federal courts;
· It does not necessarily prevent deportation.
If you are eligible for a dismissal/expungement you should apply for that first.
If you are not eligible for a dismissal/expungement or the judge has already granted your dismissal/expungement then you may apply for a COR.
You need to file a Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation in the county where you currently live. You do not file the Petition in county where the conviction occurred. This is different than most forms of conviction record relief.
If you live in San Diego County you can get a copy of the Certificate of Rehabilitation & Pardon Instruction Packet from the Superior Court web site, Superior Court Clerk’s Office, Probation Department, or Public Defender’s Office.
There are two forms to fill out:
· Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon;
· Notice of Filing for Certification of Rehabilitation and Pardon (leave the date, time, and department area blank).
Fill out the two forms and file them along with any supporting documents (for example: letters of recommendation, certificates, proof of counseling, treatment, education, employment, etc.) with the Superior Court clerk in the county where you live.
When you file a Petition for COR in San Diego, the District Attorney requires you to complete a Personal History Questionnaire. This is a 12 page document requesting all kinds of information about you. The District Attorney will send you a copy when you apply for a COR or you may request a copy of the Questionnaire from the District Attorney or Fresh Start Program before you file.
Once your petition is filed, be patient. It may be months before you are notified of any action on your petition. In the meantime, the prosecuting agency in the county where you live will investigate what you have been up to since your release from custody. They will prepare a report for the judge. If the prosecuting agency determines that you are not eligible for a COR, they will notify you and the court. Then there will not be a court hearing. (If you believe you are eligible, you may file a motion asking the judge to have a hearing on eligibility.) If the prosecuting agency agrees you are eligible (this does not mean they agree the judge should grant the COR), then you will be notified by mail of a court date for a hearing in front of the judge. Expect it will take at least six months from the time you file the Petition before you see the judge.
At the court hearing you will be able to present to the judge reasons you believe you have been rehabilitated. You may include witnesses to your good character, letters of recommendation, employment history, community activity and service and any other evidence you believe will support your request. You may want to encourage family and friends who know about your history and what you have accomplished since then to attend.
At the hearing the judge can review any information about you and the crime for which you were originally convicted including your court file from the original case, any prison or jail records, any parole or probation supervision records, and any police reports filed since your release on probation, parole, post-release community supervision, or mandatory supervision.
The prosecuting agency may agree that the COR should be granted or argue that the judge should not grant the COR. The judge will then decide whether or not to grant the COR. Keep in mind that a COR is very seldom granted but it is worth pursuing.
If the judge grants your COR, CONGRATULATIONS! It means you have a court order saying you are officially rehabilitated. The judge’s order will also automatically be sent to the Governor’s office as an application for a Governor’s Pardon. You do not need to do anything else to apply for a pardon.
The Governor’s Pardon process takes a considerable amount of time but you will be notified of any decision. Be aware that even though your application has been sent to the Governor, there is no requirement that he/she even consider it. CORs and Pardons are rarely granted but are worth pursuing as each may increase your employment opportunities by demonstrating an official finding that you are a rehabilitated person worthy of hiring.
The Governor’s website has information you need to know about how to apply for a Pardon (https://www.gov.ca.gov/s_pardonsandcommutations.php). You may download the three required forms from the Governor’s web site or mail a request to:
Attention: Legal Affairs
Sacramento, CA 95814
The three forms are the (1) Notice of Intent to Apply for Executive Clemency; (2) Application for Gubernatorial Pardon; and (3) Statement of Notice to District Attorney and Declaration under Penalty of Perjury.
Fill out the “Notice of Intent to Apply for Executive Clemency” and send it to the District Attorney of each county where you have a conviction.
Fill out and mail to the Governor’s Office (at address above) the following two forms:
· Application for Gubernatorial Pardon
· Statement of Notice to District Attorney and Declaration under Penalty of Perjury
Because it is an honor to be granted a Governor’s Pardon, the process takes time. If the Governor takes action on your application, they will notify you.
There are no fees or costs to file for a COR or Governor’s Pardon.
Not necessarily. The Superior Court’s website contains helpful information about the COR/Governor’s Pardon process. The forms you need are on the website. The local public law library also has resources to learn how to file for a COR or Governor’s Pardon.
While you do not need a lawyer, you may want one. You may hire a lawyer or our office is able to help you at no cost.
If you would like our office to assist you, fill out and submit the Fresh Start Program Request for Assistance form.
You may email, fax, mail or drop off the form.
Office of the Public Defender Email: Fresh.Start@sdcounty.ca.gov
Fresh Start Program Fax: (619) 338-4811 (Attn: Fresh Start Program)
450 B Street, Suite 900
San Diego, CA 92101
Please call the Office of the Primary Public Defender at (619) 338-4700 and ask to speak to someone from the Fresh Start Program. The Office of the Primary Public Defender will assist you free of charge—even if you had an attorney from the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, a court appointed panel attorney, and/or you retained an attorney and now cannot afford to pay the attorney for assistance with a COR or Governor’s Pardon. You may also e-mail a question to Fresh.Start@sdcounty.ca.gov.