A criminal record can have devastating consequences and affect your life, even after serving your sentence. Even if you are fully rehabilitated, you will still receive enhanced scrutiny when people learn about your previous conviction. An adverse criminal record could prevent you from securing a professional license, renting a house, or landing your dream job. Fortunately, the law allows you to seek a certificate of rehabilitation to avoid the stress of past convictions. Securing a certificate of rehabilitation, however, can be challenging. You should seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney for a successful process. If you are seeking a certificate of rehabilitation, the attorneys at the Monterey Criminal Attorney can guide you through the process.

Understanding The California Certificate Of Rehabilitation

Penal Code 4852.01 and Penal Code 4852.21 cover the regulations regarding the certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate highlights how to clear your criminal conviction after becoming law-abiding. Unfortunately, the certificate only clears your criminal record but does not erase the records. A criminal court judge determines if you qualify for a governor's pardon when you file a petition to obtain the certificate. The certificate acts as a legal application for a governor's pardon.

After the judge has convicted you of a felony, the law allows you to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation through the superior court. However, you could be ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation if you were convicted of the following felony crimes:

  • Sodomy using force under PC 286c
  • Oral copulation by use of force under PC 288c
  • Sexually abusing a child under PC 288.5
  • Sexual penetration of a child by force under PC 289(j)
  • Child molestation under PC 2869

You could qualify to apply for the certificate of rehabilitation under PC 290 even if you are a registered sex offender. While other options exist for erasing your criminal records, securing a certificate of rehabilitation could be the best option in certain circumstances.

What You Require to Secure a Certificate of Rehabilitation

A certificate of rehabilitation can help you clear your name and criminal record. You have to meet the following requirements before applying for a certificate of rehabilitation:

  • You must have been a law-abiding person for several years.
  • You must have stayed in California for at least five consecutive years before applying for the certificate of rehabilitation.
  • After completing your initial sentence, you must not have been convicted of an additional crime.
  • You must not be serving probation for a felony conviction.

Ineligibility For A Certificate Of Rehabilitation

You could be ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation if:

  • You are convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense that is not listed under Penal Code 290
  • You have been convicted of a felony offense in another state
  • Your sentence includes the death penalty
  • You are under mandatory life parole
  • You currently serve in the U.S military

Fortunately, you do not have to worry, even if you have been convicted of a felony. There is hope of rejoining society and becoming a productive person. It is still possible to enjoy complete post-conviction relief even when you are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation. You can get relief through a full pardon from your governor or an appeal to the judge. However, you might have to wait for some time after the denial of a certificate of rehabilitation to reapply. The judge will review your case and let you know if your application can be granted.

The Period You Should Wait Before Applying For A Certificate Of Rehabilitation

Before applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, you must attend a satisfactory rehabilitation period and stay in California consecutively for at least five years. The five-year period starts from the day you complete your parole. However, your rehabilitation period could be increased by two to five years, depending on the offense you were convicted of. In this case, you count from the day you completed probation to when you were out of supervision.

Nine-Year Waiting Period

There are offenses whereby you must wait for nine years before applying for a certificate of rehabilitation. The offenses under this category include the following:

  • Assault causing significant bodily harm
  • Murder, and
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Train mayhem
  • Any crime punishable by life imprisonment

Ten-Year Waiting Period

If you are convicted of a sex crime, you might be required to wait for ten years before applying for a certificate of rehabilitation. The ten years could include spending five years in rehabilitation and in the community. Sex offenders who are required to register as sex offenders are subject to this rule.

Seven-Year Waiting Period

All other offenses require you to wait no more than seven years before applying for a certificate of rehabilitation.

However, you can waive your rehabilitation waiting period. The judge has the power to waive it. In this case, your attorney must convince the judge that waiving it could serve you justice.

The judges have the discretion to waive the rehabilitation period, but it is not common for them to do so. Additionally, you cannot qualify for this option if your crime requires you to register as a sex offender.

What You Should Do After Filing A Petition For A Certificate Of Rehabilitation

You must be patient after filing a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation. You will receive a notification regarding your petition after several months. The prosecution team could, however, investigate what you have been doing since you were released from jail. After investigating you, the prosecution agency writes a report to the criminal court judge.

The prosecution agency will notify you and the court if they establish that you do not qualify for the certificate of rehabilitation. If this happens, a court hearing will not be scheduled. You can file a motion requesting the judge to set a hearing for eligibility if you believe you qualify for the certificate of rehabilitation.

On the other hand, if the prosecution agency accepts that you qualify for the certificate, they will mail you information about the court dates for your hearing. Your hearing will likely be held within six months from the date you filed the petition.

The Hearing

During the hearing, you will be given a chance to explain why you think you have been well rehabilitated. You can hire an attorney to attend the court hearing on your behalf. The judge will highly consider what you say when deciding on your situation. You could include a recommendation letter amongst the following information:

  • Your prison and trial history
  • Arguments from the office of the governor and the district attorney
  • Your family and social support network
  • Your educational and professional history
  • Evidence of your volunteer work
  • Proof that you stay in California
  • Prove that you are a student
  • Community service
  • Witness your good character
  • The history of your job, among other evidence

You could ask your family members and friends who understand your history to testify regarding your accomplishments. Talk to them before the court because friends can worsen your situation if they provide false information. Consult your criminal defense attorney if you encounter hardship with the legal process.

The court will review information about the following during the court hearing:

  • Your probation program
  • Your jail term
  • Your criminal record
  • The offense you were convicted of

The judge could also review any information filed by the police after the following:

  • Your release on parole
  • Community supervision
  • Probation
  • Mandatory supervision

The prosecuting agency could discuss this with the court and decide whether to grant or deny you the certificate of rehabilitation. However, the judge can grant or deny you the certificate. Securing the certificate of rehabilitation is challenging, but you should not give up. Continue pursuing it even when you feel like quitting.

If the criminal court judge grants you the certificate, you will have a court order indicating that you are officially rehabilitated. The order will then be sent automatically to the governor's office. The certificate of rehabilitation will assist you in applying for the governor's pardon. You will receive information about any decisions made, even if the governor's pardon will take a long time.

Sometimes, the court sends your application to the governor, but they fail to approve it. Generally, securing the certificate of rehabilitation and the governor's pardon is hard. It is, therefore, advisable that you seek the services of a well-skilled attorney to help you maximize your chances of winning your case.

Benefits Of Applying For A Certificate Of Rehabilitation

Unlike expungement, a certificate of rehabilitation does not clear your criminal records. Typically, the advantages of applying for a certificate of rehabilitation include:

Registration As A Sex Offender

Securing the certificate of rehabilitation could end your registration as a sex offender. Generally, not all sex offenders enjoy this privilege. For example, you are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation if you are convicted of sexual assault, kidnapping, or sexual crimes involving a minor. You should consult your attorney if you are facing a conviction for a sex crime to know if your crime is eligible. A sex offender can only be relieved of their charges by securing a full pardon from the governor.

Automatic Governor's Pardon

When you apply for a certificate of rehabilitation, you will automatically receive the governor's pardon. With a governor's pardon, you can access the rights you lost after a conviction. These rights could include serving on a jury and owning a gun. You will also not have to register as a sex offender.

Employment Opportunities

It is challenging to secure employment in California if you have a criminal record. Most employers do the following before choosing a favorable employee:

  • Social media searches
  • Professional background searches
  • Conduct Google searches

The Governor's Pardon Explained

In most cases, the best way to secure a governor's pardon is to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation. Once you receive the certificate, it will serve as an automatic application. Typically, a pardon is an order issued by the state governor to erase all your previous convictions.

The governor's pardon is only available for offenders with exemplary character and is granted after serving a sentence. It is limited, even if it can clear your criminal record. For example, the governor's pardon is only applicable in California. You cannot access it if you are convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony in another state.

Exemplary character means you completed your punishment and sentence. The only evidence you can show that you are eligible for the pardon is that you have returned to society and maintained peace for five to ten years. You could also qualify for the governor's pardon if you secure and keep lawful employment.

Qualifications For The Governor's Pardon

Only some people are eligible for the application for the governor's pardon. You are required to meet specific criteria under California law to qualify for the governor's pardon. You can only be eligible if you meet the following conditions:

  • You have served a jail term or released on parole probation
  • You have been in society for five to ten years or more after serving a jail term
  • You have complied with all the terms and conditions of your probation
  • You were convicted in California

Advantages Of A Governor's Pardon

The governor's pardon has the following benefits:

  • Relieves you from registering as a sex offender
  • Restore your rights upon federal approval unless you were convicted of a crime involving the use of a severe weapon.

Disadvantages of a Governor's Pardon

The following are the limitations of a governor's pardon:

  • You are not allowed to answer that you have no criminal record unless the court has already erased your records
  • You cannot access it if you are convicted in another state
  • It does not seal or erase records of your arrest
  • It does not protect you from deportation

Methods of Applying For a Governor's Pardon

The governor's pardon is just as important as pursuing a certificate of rehabilitation. You can seek the services of an attorney to guide you through the legal process. You can use the following legal methods to secure a governor's pardon:

Securing The Certificate of Rehabilitation

The first method you could use to secure the governor's pardon is to seek a certificate of rehabilitation. If the judge awards you the certificate, it will be an automatic application for the governor's pardon. You must first file your petition with the California Superior Court. The judge will then send the certificate to the office of the governor.

Applying for a Direct Governor's Pardon Directly

Sometimes, the court can find you ineligible for the certificate of rehabilitation. For example, the place you reside could prevent you from applying for the certificate of rehabilitation. In this situation, you could apply for a governor's pardon directly.

You can begin by applying for executive clemency. Executive clemency is an official request for your pardon from the president of the United States. Your attorney can help you file a plea or petition with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. The petition will highlight your intention to file for pardon. Your attorney must also file the petition with your district attorney in the county where you live. The district attorney will send the notice to the governor's office once he/she receives it. You can file your petition seeking the governor's pardon once the district attorney notifies the governor's office.

You should work closely with an attorney who understands post-conviction matters. This is crucial because of the challenges of the legal process when seeking a certificate of rehabilitation and the governor's pardon. A skilled attorney comes in handy to help you explore available options.

Other Legal Options

You can use several ways to have your criminal records cleared if you are ineligible for both a certificate of rehabilitation and the governor's pardon. However, it is recommended that you hire a competent criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the criminal system. Your attorney will guide you and help you choose the best legal option that suits your case. Some of the options could include:

Having Your Charge Reduced to a Misdemeanor

Any criminal conviction could influence your future life negatively. Fortunately, most judges consider misdemeanor charges less severe than felony charges. Under Penal Code 17(b), the court could reduce your case to a misdemeanor when:

  • You served a jail term or probation
  • You had a conviction for a wobbler

According to Penal Code 17(b), a wobbler is any crime that could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Some of the crimes could include:

  • Spousal battery
  • Burglary
  • Criminal threats, and
  • Fraud

The judge will take into account the following factors when determining whether to grant your Penal Code 17(b) petition:

  • The nature and seriousness of your crime
  • The unique facts of your charges
  • If you violated any terms and conditions of your felony probation
  • Your criminal record

Having Your Charges Expunged

Your criminal defense attorney can petition the court to have your charges expunged. Most legal experts claim that it is better to have your charges expunged than to secure a certificate of rehabilitation. Filing a petition to expunge your criminal record could help you get your life back on track after serving jail. The benefits of having your criminal records expunged include:

  • You can quickly secure a professional license in the state.
  • Restoration of your rights and credibility as a court witness
  • Prevents prospective employers from accessing your past convictions upon conducting background checks
  • It can prevent deportation and other immigration repercussions you will likely face after a conviction for particular crimes.

You can be eligible for an expungement under Penal Code 1204.4 if the following is true:

  • You did not serve your jail term in a state prison upon conviction
  • You are not serving probation for any conviction
  • You have completed your community service
  • You can hold on to or retain your employment
  • You do not have any additional conviction

Securing an expungement is a paper-intensive process. For you to enhance your chances of qualifying for this post-conviction relief option, it is advisable to hire a skilled attorney.

Sealing The Records Of Your Arrests

Your attorney can petition the court to have your arrest records sealed and destroyed. This option could only be valid if:

  • The police arrested you and dropped your charges
  • The court vacated your case
  • You completed a pre-trial diversion program, for example, drug diversion under Penal Code 1000
  • You received a not guilty verdict in a bench trial or jury trial for the said crime
  • The prosecutor filed criminal charges against you, but the judge dropped the charges later in the interest of justice
  • The prosecutor did not file criminal charges against you after your arrest

Sealing the records of your arrests means any individual conducting a background check on you will not know you have an arrest record. The following are your records of arrest that could be sealed:

  • Rap sheet entries
  • Booking photos, ‘’mugshots’’
  • Police reports
  • Fingerprints

You will not qualify for record sealing and destruction if adjudicated as a delinquent. You must meet the following requirements to qualify for the sealing and destroying of the records:

  • Your sentence was not related to severe offenses like armed robbery or murder
  • Your conviction was not associated with immorality in adulthood
  • You are above 18 years

Secure a Commutation of Sentence

If you are serving prison time, you could be eligible for a sentence commutation by the governor. A commutation could reduce your sentencing but does not restore lost civil rights. It can also make you eligible for parole immediately.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

You do not have to bear the burden of a past conviction for the rest of your life. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can explore several post-conviction relief options. A standard option is seeking a certificate of rehabilitation and the governor's pardon. You should only work with an attorney who understands post-conviction matters. If you need legal guidance and representation in applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, contact our attorneys at Monterey Criminal Attorney. Contact us at 831-574-1791 to speak to one of our attorneys.