Before an individual may apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon there are many requirements that must be fulfilled, including but not limited to satisfying timing rules, being convicted of only specified crimes, receiving an expungement in certain circumstances, and providing proof of living an honest and upright life after your conviction.

A Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Pardon are not guaranteed to be granted.  Pardons have been historically granted infrequently for the last 20 years.  Only 29 Pardons in the last 20 years were granted during Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson’s terms.

Governor Brown has recently revived a more liberal tradition of granting Pardons with over 500 granted since his election in 2011.

Basic Information

The statutes authorizing certificates of rehabilitation and pardons are found within Penal Code §§ 4852.01 – 4852.21.  The following is the first of many controlling statutes.

Penal Code § 4852.01.  (a) A person convicted of a felony who is committed to a state prison or other institution or agency, including commitment to a county jail pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, may file a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.

(b) A person convicted of a felony or a person who is convicted of a misdemeanor violation of any sex offense specified in Section 290, the accusatory pleading of which has been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4, may file a petition for certificate of rehabilitation and pardon pursuant to the provisions of this chapter if the petitioner has not been incarcerated in a prison, jail, detention facility, or other penal institution or agency since the dismissal of the accusatory pleading, is not on probation for the commission of any other felony, and the petitioner presents satisfactory evidence of five years’ residence in this state prior to the filing of the petition.

(c) This chapter does not apply to persons serving a mandatory life parole, persons committed under death sentences, persons convicted of a violation of Section 269, subdivision (c) of Section 286, Section 288, subdivision (c) of Section 288a, Section 288.5, Section 288.7, or subdivision (j) of Section 289, or persons in military service.

(d) Notwithstanding any other law, the Governor has the right to pardon a person convicted of a violation of Section 269, subdivision (c) of Section 286, Section 288, subdivision (c) of Section 288a, Section 288.5, Section 288.7, or subdivision (j) of Section 289, if there are extraordinary circumstances.

Eligibility Criteria

You are eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation if you:

  • Were convicted of a felony (excluding specified felonies, see next section), or misdemeanor sex offense specified in Penal Code § 290 that was dismissed under Penal Code § 1203.4 (expungement); and
    1. Have been discharged from custody, parole, or probation; and
    2. Have not been incarcerated in any penal institution, jail or agency since release; and
    3. Are not on probation for the commission of any other felony; and
    4. Have resided after discharge from custody due to completion of the term to which you were sentenced or upon your release on parole or probation, whichever is sooner, for a minimum of 5 years plus a specific period of time (different crimes carry different timing periods which must be fulfilled, see below) in California immediately  prior to filing the petition, or  a court finds that it is in the “interests of justice” that a Certificate is warranted before the applicable period of rehabilitation.
  • 9 years (5 yrs + 4 yrs ) for a violation of:
  1. Penal Code § 187
  2. Penal Code § 209
  3. Penal Code § 219
  4. Penal Code § 4500
  5. Penal Code § 18755
  6. Military and Veterans Code § 1672(a), or
  7. Any other offense that carries a life sentence
  • 7 years (5 yrs + 2 yrs) for violation of:
    1. Any crime not listed above that does not carry a life sentence.
  • 10 years (5 yrs + 5 yrs) for a violation of:
    • Any offense or attempted offense for which sex offender registration is required pursuant to Penal Code § 290, except for convictions of (which require 12 years (5 yrs + 5 yrs +2 yrs)):
      1. Penal Code § 311.2(b)
      2. Penal Code § 311.2(c)
      3. Penal Code § 311.2(d)
      4. Penal Code § 311.3
      5. Penal Code § 311.10
      6. Penal Code § 314
  • Any additional years ordered by the court if the person served consecutive sentences.


  • Except in a case requiring registration pursuant to Section 290, a trial court hearing an application for a Certificate of Rehabilitation before the applicable period of rehabilitation has elapsed may grant the application if the court, in its discretion, believes relief serves the interests of justice. (Penal Code § 4852)

Who is Ineligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

  1. People who do not satisfy specific time requirements of when a person becomes eligible (7, 9, 10, or 12 years depending on the crime + any additional period the judge imposes if you served consecutive sentences)
  2. People who do not satisfy the California residency requirements (5 years after release from custody, probation or parole – whichever is sooner)
  3. Most people convicted of misdemeanors (except specific sex offenses)
  4. A person who is:
    1. Is serving a mandatory life parole; or
    2. Has been committed to prison under a death sentence; or
    3. Is convicted of a misdemeanor, except those convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense as discussed above; or
    4. Is a person in the military service; or
    5. Is convicted of the following violations (Penal Code § 4852.01(d)):
      1. 269
      2. 286(c)
      3. 288
      4. 288a(c)
      5. 288.5
      6. 288.7
      7. 289(j)

NOTE: Criminal law is ever-changing, the information provided may not be current and it is your responsibility to verify that this information is correct.  Do not rely on this information.

The Process

The first step to obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Pardon is submitting a petition to the superior court where you currently reside. The court will then require an investigation by the District Attorney as well as a hearing regarding past conduct of the applicant.

If the court agrees to grant you a Certificate of Rehabilitation, your certificate will automatically be forwarded to the Governor’s Office where it becomes an application for a Pardon. The Governor’s receipt of a Certificate of Rehabilitation, however, does not guarantee that a Pardon will be granted.

The Governor’s Office typically forwards the application to the Board of Parole Hearings, and the Board then conducts a background investigation and makes a recommendation on whether a Pardon should be granted.  If you have been convicted of more than one felony, then the California Supreme Court must recommend granting a Pardon before the Governor may do so. 

Having a felony conviction on your record can be devastating in post-conviction life.  The penalties society imposes on a person with a felony conviction on his or her record are tremendous. There are many reasons why a person convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors would seek a Certificate of Rehabilitation and/or a Pardon: for licensing purposes, employment, bonding, restoration of rights, cessation of registration for specified sex offenses, and personal satisfaction.

A Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Pardon do not seal one’s record, nor do they expunge it. They will not clear a criminal record of arrests or convictions. They do not prevent certain licensing agencies from still considering the conviction. You may, however, say to interested parties that you have been convicted and rehabilitated and pardoned by the state.

What You Should Do

Call the Law Offices of Matthew S. Luzaich for a free consultation regarding your eligibility, the steps you need to take to maximize the likelihood of getting the petition granted, and information regarding the procedure to receiving a Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Governor’s Pardon.

*The information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for legal advice. It is only basic information and the law(s) may have changed since its publication.  You should contact an attorney if you are interested in a Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Pardon to determine your eligibility.

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