Certificates of Rehabilitation (Applicable only to Felonies with a State Prison Sentence and Expunged Misdemeanor Sex Crimes)
A defendant convicted of a felony and sentenced to state prison cannot later have the conviction expunged. However, the defendant may apply for a “Certificate of Rehabilitation”, which is essentially the first step to a pardon by the Governor. Certificates of Rehabilitation are also available for past convictions of certain misdemeanor sex crimes that have already been expunged.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court order declaring that a defendant released from prison or convicted of certain misdemeanor sex offenses has been rehabilitated. If the court grants a defendant’s request for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, it is then forwarded by the court to the Governor’s Office as an application for pardon.
Like an expungement, a Certificate of Rehabilitation can be exceptionally important to a person’s career and personal life. If a Certificate of Rehabilitation is granted, not only does it automatically become an application for pardon, but it will likely be considered favorably for anyone seeking to obtain any state license. For persons convicted of certain sex crimes, a Certificate of Rehabilitation will relieve them from registering as a sex offender.
To qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation the following the conditions must be met:
- Defendant served time in state prison for a felony conviction, or successfully expunged a misdemeanor conviction that requires sex offender registration pursuant to Penal Code section 290
- Defendant has lived in California continuously for 3 years (for parolees) or 5 years (all other cases) before applying for the Certificate of Rehabilitation
- Defendant presents a satisfactory period of rehabilitation starting from the date released from custody
Expungement of Felony "Wobblers" (crimes that can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies)
A defendant with a past felony conviction for a “wobbler” (a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony), can first ask the court to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17(b). If this request is granted, the defendant can then seek to expunge the past conviction as a misdemeanor.