A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a certificate from a court recognizing a person’s rehabilitation. A Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) can provide substantial personal and professional benefits—it may necessary step to obtaining an occupational license, or obtaining a COR can prevent a licensing agency from denying you solely on the basis of an old criminal conviction. In some cases, a COR may release you from the duty to register as a sex offender. There are limitations: you still have to disclose the conviction when applying for a job or a license (a COR does not dismiss the conviction), and should you be charged with another crime the old conviction still counts as a prior or a strike. If you also receive a Governor’s Pardon, then your old convictions cannot be used to impeach you as a witness.
Application Process for A Certificate of Rehabilitation
Obtaining a COR requires demonstrating a lengthy, sustained period of rehabilitation. Applying for a COR will trigger an extensive investigation by the District Attorney (DA). The DA often contacts the victim or victim’s family as well as anyone who writes letters about your rehabilitation, your family, employers, and friends.
Certain convictions will prevent you from obtaining a COR. A COR is only available for persons who were convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison and for persons convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense requiring sex offender registration. CORs are not available for anyone convicted of any of these sex offenses: PC 286 (sodomy), PC 288 (Lewd Acts With A Child), PC 288a(c) (Oral Copulation with a Child Under 14), PC 288.5 (Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child), PC 289(j) (Sexual Penetration of a Person Under 14), or felony PC 261.5 (statutory rape). CORs also are not available for persons serving mandatory life parole.
To apply for a COR, you must meet the eligibility requirements listed below, submit a fairly lengthy application including letters of recommendation and proof of rehabilitation, and be prepared for the prosecutor to launch an investigation into your life and background. Upon receipt of your petition, the court will set a hearing date. At the hearing, you and your attorney will present evidence showing your rehabilitation. If the court grants your petition, your COR becomes an automatic application for a Governor’s pardon.
- You were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor sex offense,
- You served time in state prison, received felony probation, or were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense which you have had expunged (see: http://www.defendca.com/expungement-california.php),
- You were released from custody and have not been re-incarcerated,
- If you went to prison, wait 7 years from your date of discharge from parole,
- Proof you have been a California resident for 5 years,
- Proof of rehabilitation: proof that you have been crime free and a law-abiding, productive member of society.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation and A Governor’s Pardon
A Certificate of Rehabilitation is issued by a court in the county where you live (not necessarily the county where you were convicted). A Governor’s Pardon is, obviously, granted by the governor. Obtaining a COR is often the first step in applying for a Governor’s Pardon—when a COR is issued it is automatically forwarded to the Governor as an application for a pardon, however, a COR is not the only route to getting a Governor’s pardon. When a COR is issued it is also reported to the DOJ and the FBI so that your rehabilitation can be reflected on your RAP sheet.