California Certificate of Rehabilitation

California Certificate of Rehabilitation

A Certificate of Rehabilitation (“COR”) is a California court-order declaring that a person previously convicted of a felony (or misdemeanor sex offense) is now rehabilitated.  The purpose of the COR is to restore civil and political rights of citizenship to ex-felons who have proved their rehabilitation.  The standards for determining whether a convicted felon is entitled to a COR are high.  The COR is effective for convictions that resulted in state prison time and is a crucial first step for obtaining  a pardon by the California Governor.

The COR process is available for those persons who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor sex offense which required the person to register as a sex offender.  In very limited circumstances, a COR can relieve a person from registering as a sex offender.  There are exceptions for other sex offenses. 

In California, a person must file a Petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation in the Superior Court of the county where the applicant resides.  A California Superior Court judge has the broad discretion to issue each COR (on proper petition/motion only).  If the judge grants the COR, it is then forwarded to the California Governor by the Superior Court and constitutes an automatic application for a pardon.  Note: A COR is not an automatic pardon; it is only an automatic application for a pardon.  The decision to grant a petition for COR and pardon is discretionary, the standards for a finding of rehabilitation are high and, ultimately, the decision to pardon the petitioner rests with the Governor.

Upon receipt of the application, the Governor may request the Board of Prison Terms conduct its own investigation and prepare a report.  If the applicant has been convicted of more than one felony in separate proceedings, the California Supreme Court must approve granting a pardon before the Governor may do so.

Though you can file for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation on your own, it is not really a do-it-yourself project.  Before deciding whether you want to manage the process, you should weigh the risks and benefits.  An attorney who is knowledgeable in the legal process, has an ongoing proven tracking record of successful outcomes, and is experienced with cases like yours, will give you the best chance of having a favorable ruling.

Eligibility Rules for California Certificate of Rehabilitation

There are three scenarios that make one eligible to apply for a COR:

Scenario 1:
     
1. You were convicted of a felony and served your sentence in a California prison; and
      2. You were discharged or released on parole prior to May 13, 1943; and
      3. You have not been incarcerated in a state penal institution since release; and  
      4. You have resided in California for three-years immediately prior to filing the petition.

Scenario 2:
      
1. You were convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor sex offense specified in Penal Code section 290 that was dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4; and
       2. You have been discharged from custody, parole, or probation; and
       3. You have not been incarcerated in any penal institution, jail, or agency since release; and
       4. You are not on probation for the commission of any other felony; and
       5. You have resided for five years in California immediately prior to filing the petition.

Scenario 3:

      1. You were convicted of a felony after May 13, 1943; and
      2.  You were sentenced to state prison; and
      3. You were discharged from custody or released on parole; and
      4. You have continuously resided in California for the past 5 years.

An applicant must offer evidence of having completed a satisfactory period of rehabilitation beginning from the date he or she was released from custody.

Certain cases (such as sex offender, serving a mandatory life parole, under a death sentence, currently in the military service) are ineligible to file a petition for COR.

Process for Applying for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation

An applicant must file his or her petition for COR in the Superior Court of the county where he or she resides.  The petition can be obtained from the county court clerk, probation department, public defender's office, or in many cases it can be electronically accessed on the internet.  An applicant must notify the district attorney in his or her county of residence and, if applicable, the district attorney of each county in which he or she was convicted of a felony.  Once a petition is properly filed, the Superior Court will schedule a hearing.  Before the hearing, the court may require an investigation by the district attorney to verify eligibility requirements or conduct an investigation regarding rehabilitation. As previously mentioned, if the applicant has been convicted of more than one felony in separate proceedings, the California Supreme Court must approve granting a pardon before the Governor may do so.

Residency Requirement

California requires a five-year continuous state residency for applying for a COR.  Additional time may apply for certain offenses.  Be sure to look into this issue with the court and/or your attorney.

Effect of Certificate of Rehabilitation

A COR does not erase the felony conviction or seal the criminal record. In fact, the felony offense may still be considered as a prior conviction for sentencing purposes for subsequent convictions. The COR does, however, restore the right to vote and legally permit you to answer on employment applications that you have no record of conviction.

For more information on California criminal expungements, see the following articles:

Overview of California Criminal Expungements

Eligibility for Record Dismissal or Expungements in California

Process for Expunging Criminal Adult Records in California

Sealing and Destroying Adult Arrest Records in California: Factual Innocence Remedy

Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records in California

Expunging Adult Criminal Records in California

Do I Need an Attorney in California to File an Expungement or Petition to Seal my Criminal Records?