California Certificate Of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon
At Wallin & Klarich, our criminal defense attorneys collectively have decades of experience successfully helping people like you apply to be relieved of their legal obligation to register as sex offenders as specified under California Penal Code Section 290.[i] We have filed countless applications for Certificates of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardons on behalf of our clients.
Whether you reached this point by clicking through our guide or because you simply wanted information about this area of law, we are here to help you to understand what a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon is, and whether it might be used to help you legally stop registering as a sexual offender for good.
What is a California Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon?
A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court order that says you have rehabilitated since committing the crime you were convicted of. It does not erase your conviction from your criminal record, but it shows that the court has deemed you rehabilitated.
If you obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, it could:
- Relieve you of your requirement to register as a sex offender
- Enable you to apply for licensing consideration by a state board
- Enhance your ability to obtain employment
- Serve as an official document to show that you have been rehabilitated
- Serve as an automatic application for a Governor’s Pardon
A California Governor’s Pardon is an honor bestowed upon individuals by the governor. The governor typically only grants pardons to people who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following a felony conviction or certain misdemeanor sex offenses. The governor has complete discretion when it comes to granting pardons. It will be up to the governor to determine whether you are worthy of being pardoned based on the information you have provided in your application packet.
A pardon also does not seal or erase your criminal record, but it could:
- Allow you to serve on a jury trial
- Restore your gun rights in certain cases as outlined under PC 4854
- Allow you to be considered for appointment as a county probation officer or state parole agent
- Relieve you of your duty to register as a sex offender (PC 290.5)
How to Apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon
Obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon is actually a two step process governed by California Penal Code Sections 4852.01-4852.21.[ii] This process is extremely complex and involves a lot of paperwork. We highly recommend you seek the advice of a skilled attorney to help you send an application. An attorney with experience in post-conviction matters can use his or her experience successfully applying for Certificates of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardons to help you fill out your application.
The first step is to have your attorney file the application with the Superior Court for the county where you live. You need to make sure it is filed in the county where you currently reside, not the county where the conviction occurred (PC 4852.06).[ii] The court will consider the application and, if the court believes that you have been “rehabilitated,” the court will grant the application and issue a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
Realize that convincing a judge of your rehabilitation is no easy task. It takes hard evidence. What’s needed is a candid assessment of all of the problem areas of your case and a plan of attack to neutralize each and every one of them with overwhelming proof. Criminal court judges don’t have much of a soft spot for people accused of sex offenses. Therefore, great care must be taken to avoid giving the judge any excuse to deny the application. This is where the assistance of an experienced California criminal defense attorney is crucial.
If you are granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation, the second step will be started by the court clerk. Once your Certificate of Rehabilitation has been granted, the clerk must immediately forward it to the governor’s office. By law, the governor must consider it as an application for a Governor’s Pardon, which the governor may grant at his sole discretion (PC 4852.14, 4852.16[ii]; Cal. Const. Art. V, § 8).[iii]
Please note that if you’ve been convicted of more than one felony, the governor will also need the approval of the California Supreme Court before you can be granted a pardon (Cal. Const. Art. V, § 8).[iii]
You can choose to apply for a Governor’s Pardon without first obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation, but the chances of the governor issuing you a pardon are much better if your application is backed up by a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the court.
What are the Qualifications Required to Receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon in California?
Not everyone is eligible to seek relief from the court in the form of a Certificate of Rehabilitation or Governor’s Pardon. Your application will not be considered if you do not meet certain eligibility requirements. To be eligible to apply for one of these forms of post-conviction relief, you must meet all of the following criteria:
1. You were convicted of a felony in California or a felony sex crime that requires registration pursuant to Penal Code Section 290[i]; or you were convicted of a California misdemeanor sex crime that requires registration, and, in the case of a misdemeanor sex crime, the misdemeanor sex crime was expunged pursuant to Penal Code Section 1203.4/1203.4a
2. You have lived in California for a period of five continuous years prior to filing your application. Our sex crimes attorneys have been helping clients apply for post-conviction relief for many years. We know that the application process takes time. That is why we tell our clients that we can get started on the paperwork now and file the application the moment you have reached the five-year requirement.
3. You must wait a designated period of time from the date you were released from custody or placed on probation or parole (whichever is sooner). The waiting period depends upon your conviction:
- If your conviction was a sex crime that requires registration under 290 PC, the waiting period is 10 years
- If you are required to register solely because you were convicted of violating a child pornography law under Penal Code Section 311.2(b), Penal Code Section 311.2(c), Penal Code Section 311.2(d), Penal Code Section 311.3, Penal Code Section 311.10, or Penal Code Section 314, the waiting period is seven years
- If it was a felony conviction and not a sex crime, the waiting period is seven years
As we mentioned above, you do not have to wait this entire period before you contact us. Our attorneys can started on your application packet as you near the end of the required waiting period and that way we can file the application immediately after the waiting period has been satisfied.
4. Your California sex offense conviction was not for one of the following crimes involving lewd or lascivious acts with a child or minor:
• Penal Code Section 286(c)
• Penal Code Section 288
• Penal Code Section 288a(c)
• Penal Code Section 288.5
• Penal Code Section 289(j)
5. You are not currently serving in the United States Military.
6. You can demonstrate that, since your last conviction, you have lived an honest and upright life, conducted yourself with sobriety and industry, exhibited a good moral character and conformed to and obeyed the laws of the land.
If you are not eligible because you do not meet all of the criteria listed, you cannot properly apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. Your only recourse is to apply directly to the the governor for a pardon.
Many People Have Filed for a Certificate of Rehabilitation That are Not Sex Offenders
Many people ask our law firm if a Certificate of Rehabilitation is only available to those who have committed sex crimes. The answer is no. A Certificate of Rehabilitation is available to all individuals who meet the above requirements. So why would a person who doesn’t have to register as a sex offender want to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
The reason people who are not registered sex offenders file for a Certificate of Rehabilitation is simply to clean their criminal record. While these individuals are not seeking to end their requirement to register as a sex offender, a Certificate of Rehabilitation could have other benefits for them. This includes being able to find and maintain employment and acquiring the moral satisfaction that comes from being officially “rehabilitated.”
When a person is convicted of a felony in California, a Certificate of Rehabilitation can open up more doors of opportunity for that person. If you are seeking post-conviction relief for a felony crime, contact our law firm to find out how to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
If the Judge Grants Me a Certificate of Rehabilitation, Can I Legally Stop Registering or Do I Need to Wait for the Governor’s Decision on the Pardon Application?
Unfortunately, answering this question is not so simple. The answer depends upon a number of different factors. Let us explain:
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense, a Certificate of Rehabilitation will stop your legal obligation to register as a sex offender. If you were convicted of a wobbler offense that was charged as a felony, you should first have your lawyer attempt to get the felony reduced to a misdemeanor under California Penal Code Section 17(b). Then, a Certificate of Rehabilitation alone would relieve you of your obligation to register as a sex offender (PC 290.5(a)).
If your Certificate of Rehabilitation is granted using one of these two methods, your application will still be forwarded to the governor’s office for consideration for a Governor’s Pardon. However, your Certificate of Rehabilitation is enough to end your requirement to register as a sex offender. Therefore, we recommend you consider having your felony sex offense reduced to a misdemeanor before applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or Governor’s Pardon.
If your California sex offense was a felony that has not been reduced to a misdemeanor – either because the court where you were convicted refuses to do so or because the law does not allow the court to do so – being granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation will not, in and of itself, stop you from registering as a sex offender (PC 290.5(b)(1)). Of course, if you’ve been granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation, your Certificate is an automatic application for a pardon, which, if granted by the governor, will relieve you of your legal obligation to register as a sex offender.
In summary, as a general rule, if you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor sex crime, being granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation by the judge will end sex offender registration. However, if you’ve been convicted of a felony sex crime, being granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation by the judge will not relieve you of the legal duty to continue registering as a sex offender. Of course, there is a little wrinkle to this rule.
Many people don’t realize that a criminal court judge can order a person convicted of any California crime to register as a sex offender, even if the crime itself is not a sex crime (PC 290.006). This means that a judge could order a person convicted of any crime to register as a sex offender as long as the judge finds at the time of conviction or sentencing that the person committed the offense “as a result of sexual compulsion or for purposes of sexual gratification.”
So, this is where the wrinkle comes in. What happens if, for example, a person is convicted of felony commercial burglary under Penal Code Section 459 for breaking into a lingerie store because lingerie was a particular fetish for him? The judge at sentencing ordered this person to register as a sex offender under the authority of Penal Code Section 290.006. Let’s assume further that the judge flatly refuses to reduce the crime to a misdemeanor. Does the fact that the crime is classified as a felony mean that this person is required to get a full Governor’s Pardon before being legally relieved of the duty to register as a sex offender?
In this case, the answer is no. A Certificate of Rehabilitation alone will legally terminate the duty to register as a sex offender based upon a California felony conviction, provided that the felony conviction was not for a California sex crime. As you can see, these laws are very complicated, which is why it’s important to discuss these issues with an experienced attorney.
Do You Need an Attorney to Apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or Governor’s Pardon?
So, with all this information, many people think they can simply fill out the application themselves. Why do you need an attorney to do this for you? Often times, we appear in court for a Certificate of Rehabilitation hearing for our clients and we see other people continually being turned down by the court. The main reason why is that they do not have counsel.
There is a large amount of paperwork that needs to be prepared and there are certain things the court likes to see in a Certificate of Rehabilitation application. There are also ways to get the attention of the governor in a pardon application. In order to ensure the work is done correctly, it is strongly advised that you seek competent and experienced attorneys who have experience in post-conviction law.
At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled criminal defense attorneys have more than 35 years of experience in post-conviction matters. We have been successful in obtaining Certificates of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardons for clients, so we know what it takes to fill out an effective application packet. We have helped countless people apply for Certificates of Rehabilitation and Pardon and we have achieved great results for our clients. Over the course of the past two years alone, Wallin & Klarich obtained more than 35 Certificates of Rehabilitation for our clients.
If you want great results, you should consider hiring our experienced law firm to help you apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or Governor’s Pardon. Our post-conviction lawyers are able to help you with these types of cases no matter where you live in California. Our track record of success speaks for itself, and we are confident we can help you, too.
Contact us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877-466-5245) for a free, no obligation phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
[i] Information on Penal Code 290 retrieved from https://law.onecle.com/california/penal/290.html
[ii] Information on Penal Code 4852 retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN§ionNum=4852.01
[iii] Information on California Constitution Article 5 Section 8 retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&division=11.5.&title=&part=&chapter=2.&article=5.