In California, an expungement is one way to try to put your life back on track after you have served your sentence—but not every former offender is eligible to have their conviction expunged. If you served time in state prison, for example, or if you were convicted of various sex crimes, an expungement may not be an option. However, the state allows you to apply for a different document known as a certificate of rehabilitation. This certificate has many of the same benefits.
If you need help applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, the attorneys of the Simmrin Law Group are here for you. We understand how hard it is to look for jobs and rebuild a life after serving your time. We can help you determine your eligibility, file an effective application, and challenge rulings that wrongly deny you your certificate of rehabilitation. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What is a certificate of rehabilitation and what does it do?
A certificate of rehabilitation is basically a document stating that, in the eyes of the court, you have been rehabilitated after your crime. The implication is that you are no longer a threat to society (if you ever were) and that you can be accepted as a normal, law-abiding citizen. It is the court’s official approval that you have put your past behind you.
You are able to get a certificate of rehabilitation even if you committed a felony and even if you served prison time.
It also carries many of the same (or similar) benefits as an expungement:
- It automatically makes you eligible for a Governor’s Pardon
- It restores most of your civil rights, except for your gun rights
- If you were required to register as a sex offender, you are no longer required to do so
- Once you get your certificate, you may not be denied most employment (or public-sector licenses) based on your conviction
- It serves as proof that you have been rehabilitated in the eyes of the justice system
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What limits does a certificate of rehabilitation have in California?
Like expungements, certificates of rehabilitation don’t solve everything. The two biggest limits of the certificate are:
- Gun rights. If you were convicted of a felony, you are denied your Second Amendment rights—the right to own or possess firearms. (This is also true of an expungement in most cases.) Unfortunately, a Governor’s Pardon is the only way to restore these rights after a felony conviction. However, you are eligible to apply for a Governor’s Pardon once your certificate comes through.
- Public record. Unlike an expungement, a certificate of rehabilitation does not automatically remove your conviction from public databases. Anyone performing a background check on you can still see that you were convicted.
Additionally, a certificate of rehabilitation shares other basic limits with an expungement: you must disclose your conviction if running for public office, if applying for a job or contract with the State Lottery Commission, or if applying for a professional license. And your past convictions still counts as a prior offense if you ever offend again.
How do I qualify or apply for a certificate of rehabilitation in California?
The requirements are fairly simple, but there are a lot of them. You qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation if:
- Since your release, you have lived continuously in California for at least 5 years (or at least 3 years since finishing parole in California)
- You have not been re-incarcerated since you were released
- You are EITHER:
- Not on probation for any other felony, or
- You already served felony probation, or your were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense that has now been expunged
- You have waited for an additional waiting period (see below)
- You can show proof that you have rehabilitated since your release (see below)
Once you meet all the requirements, you apply by submitting an application form to the court along with letters attesting to your character and supporting documentation. It helps to have a lawyer prepare this application for you, but you can also choose to do it yourself.
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How long do I have to wait to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation?
The basic “waiting period” is (5 years) + (either 2, 4, or 5 years) depending on the crime. That means the total waiting time is either 7 years, 9 years or 10 years. Here is an exact breakdown giving the total waiting time for each offense:
- 10 years for any sex offense that required you to register as a sex offender under state law.*
- 9 years for homicide, aggravated kidnapping, acts involving explosive devices or devices that cause mass mayhem, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, “acts or omissions” that cause someone’s death under the Military & Veteran’s Code, train wrecking or derailing, and any conviction that carries a life sentence.
- 7 years for everything else.
* There is an exception for a few sex offenses that carry even longer wait times. Sexual exploitation of a child, child pornography, or obscene conduct/indecent exposure may require a 12 year wait period instead of 10 years.
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How do I show proof that I have been rehabilitated?
Anything you can document helps if it shows good character and a clean, stable record. The most common examples are:
- Documentation that you have been working consistently
- Documentation of drug counseling, alcohol counseling or domestic abuse/anger counseling
- Documentation that you have supported your children and been active in raising and nurturing them
- Participating in the community, such as in community events
- Volunteerism (at non-profits, churches, mosques, etc., or even at companies)
- Showing that you have no arrest record since your release, if possible
In addition, by far the most helpful thing you can present are letters attesting to your character. These are letters from an employer, a pastor, the organizations where you volunteer, any community leader, or even your neighbors. These letters carry a great deal of weight because it shows that someone in the community is willing to vouch for you.
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Your past does NOT have to keep following you. A certificate of rehabilitation is a way to show the community—and employers—that you have moved on. Let the Simmrin Law Group give you a FREE consultation to get you started on your certificate of rehabilitation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
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