Maintaining a clean history free from criminal convictions is often an important step in obtaining a job or finding a place to live. Unfortunately, not everyone can have a spotless past. That is why it is so important to learn about the different ways that California’s criminal justice system offers you to clear up past convictions.

Two of these methods – Certificates of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardons – involve waiting periods that can be a bit complex at first glance. To help clear up the confusion, we offer this guide to understanding the waiting periods that you must complete before you can apply for either of these record-clearing options.

Certificate of Rehabilitation

A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a special court order that serves as a declaration that, in the court’s opinion, you are completely rehabilitated of the crime for which you were convicted. To be eligible for one of these declarations, you must be convicted of one of these types of crimes:

Non-Sexual Offense Felony Convictions

If you were convicted of a felony and served time in state prison, you must:

  • Complete your prison term, or be released on parole;Eligible for a  Certificate of Rehabilitation of a Governor's Pardon in California.
  • Remain free from custody in any jail, prison, detention facility or any other institution of punishment since your release;
  • Prove that you were a resident of California for at least five years immediately prior to filing for your Certificate; or three years if you were placed on parole; and
  • Prove that you completed a satisfactory period of rehabilitation from the day you were released from custody. 1

Felony and Misdemeanor Sexual Offenses Under California Penal Code Section 290

If you were convicted of any offense (felony or misdemeanor) listed under PC 290, you must:

  • Have that conviction expunged under California Penal Code section 1203.4;
  • Remain free from custody in any jail, prison, detention facility or any other institution of punishment since the dismissal of the case under PC section 1203.4;
  • Not be on probation for any other felony;
  • Prove you have been a California resident for at least five years immediately prior to filing for your Certificate; and
  • Prove that you completed a satisfactory period of rehabilitation from the day you were released from custody. 2

How Long is a Satisfactory Period?

The length of a “satisfactory period” is dependent upon the crime for which you were convicted. In addition to the five year waiting period to file a Certificate of Rehabilitation, you must also have been free from criminal activity for a certain number of years following the initial five years.

For the following crimes, you must remain free from criminal acts for an additional four years after your initial five year waiting period:

  • Murder (Penal Code section 187);
  • Aggravated kidnapping (Penal Code section 209);
  • Train derailment or wrecking (Penal Code section 219);
  • Assault with means of force likely to cause great bodily injury (Penal Code section 4500);
  • Acts involving explosives or destructive devices causing death, mayhem, or great bodily injury (Penal Code section 12310);
  • Acting or failing to act that causes another person’s death (under Military and Veterans Code 1672(a)); or
  • Any offense that may be punished with a life sentence.

For any offense that required you to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290, you must be free from crime for five additional years after your initial five year waiting period has expired.

However, if you were convicted of any of the following crimes listed under PC section 290, the additional period is only two years:

  • Child pornography (Penal Code section 311.2(b), (c), or (d));
  • Sexual exploitation of a child (Penal Code sections 311.3 and 311.10);
  • Obscene conduct or indecent exposure (Penal Code section 314); or
  • Any convicted offense that is not listed above and does not carry a life sentence.

Any offense not listed above has a waiting period of two years after the initial five year waiting period has expired.

Governor’s Pardon

Governor's Pardon clearing your criminal record. Call Wallin & Klarich today.
A successful Governor’s Pardon will clear your criminal conviction record.

A pardon is a grant from the governor that forgives a person for past crime, and that removes many of the effects of his or her conviction. If the person has been convicted of multiple felonies, the California Supreme Court must first recommend him or her to the governor. Generally, this includes the termination of an active sentence or probation, immediate release from custody, and the restoration of rights, such as the right to vote or serve on a jury. Pardons can also be granted to persons who have already served the entirety of their sentence.

In terms of a waiting period, there is no formal rule that sets the time a person must wait before applying. That means that it is entirely within the governor’s discretion to set the waiting period at a length of time he or she determines to be appropriate. 3 Currently, Governor Brown’s policy is that an application “will not be considered unless the applicant has been discharged from probation or parole for at least 10 years without further criminal activity during that period.” 4

What If I am Placed on Probation or Parole for a Different Crime During the Waiting Period?

With either a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Governor’s Pardon, being placed on probation or parole for a different crime will result in your waiting period being reset.

If you are required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290, you must continue to do so during your waiting period. Failure to register is a crime, and will result in the issuing of a bench warrant for your arrest. Registration is a condition of your sentence, and you can be denied either a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Governor’s Pardon for failing to act in accordance with the terms of your sentence.

Contact the Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Clean Your Criminal Record

California law gives you the opportunity to clear up your criminal history so that you can move forward with your life and pursue a life as a productive member of society. If you were convicted of a crime and want to clean up your record, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled team of attorneys has been successfully fighting for our clients’ rights for over 30 years, and we have worked hard to help our clients reduce the impact of their prior criminal history on their lives. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you, too.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.


1. [See Cal. Pen. Code 4852.06.]
2. [See Cal. Pen. Code 4852.01.]
3. [See Cal. Const. art. V, § 8.]
4. [“How to Apply for a Pardon,” Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown, Revised September 5, 2013, available at http://gov.ca.gov/docs/How_To_Apply_for_a_Pardon.pdf.]

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