Certificates of Rehabilitation Are an Underutilized Resource for Many Former California Inmates

The effects of a felony conviction are severe and remain with you for life. However, by obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation, inmates can regain many of the liberties they’ve been deprived of due to their conviction. While certificates of rehabilitation are not new, by any means, they are underutilized, in large part, because they are misunderstood. Read on to learn more about certificates of rehabilitation and how to obtain one.

What Is a Certificates of Rehabilitation?

A certificate of rehabilitation is a court determination that a former inmate has been fully rehabilitated. In this way, a certificate of rehabilitation does not help currently incarcerated inmates; however, it can help formerly incarcerated inmates on their journey to rebuild their lives and become contributing members of society.

For example, obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation will restore all of an inmate’s civil rights, with the exception of the 2nd Amendment right to own a firearm. A certificate of rehabilitation can also make getting a job easier because obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation prevents employers and licensing boards from basing a decision on an applicant’s prior felony once they’ve received a certificate of rehabilitation. Successfully obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation may also remove the registration requirements for those convicted of certain sex offenses.

Finally, a certificate of rehabilitation is official proof that an inmate has been rehabilitated to the full satisfaction of the criminal justice system. Along these lines, obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation will result in the automatic referral to the Governor for a pardon.

Who Qualifies for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

Not everyone with a prior conviction qualifies for a certificate of rehabilitation; however, many will. To a large degree, it depends on the crime for which you were convicted.

To qualify based on a past felony conviction resulting in a jail sentence, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You have not been incarcerated for another offense since your release;
  • You are not on probation for a felony;
  • You have lived in California for the five years before submitting your application; and
  • You have sufficient proof establishing you have been rehabilitated.

To qualify based on a past sex offense under Penal Code § 290, you must meet the above criteria, as well as have obtained an expungement for the underlying offense. The same goes for a felony conviction resulting in a sentence of probation.

In addition, certain offenses are automatically ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation. These include certain sex offenses committed against children under the age of 14.

Below are additional facts that result in ineligibility:

  • You are serving mandatory life parole;
  • You were sentenced to death; or
  • You are in the military.

Once you’ve determined you are eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation; the next step is to figure out how long you need to wait before applying. This is referred to as the “period of rehabilitation.” The period of rehabilitation is at least two years from the date you completed probation or parole and can be as long as five years. This is in addition to the five-year residency requirement. Thus, to calculate the total waiting period, you must add the five-year residency requirement to the additional waiting period. In other words, the total waiting period before you can file for a certificate of rehabilitation is between seven and ten years from the termination of your probation or parole.

Those eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation should consider reaching out to a California post-conviction lawyer for assistance.

How to Get Help Obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation

If you or a loved one is seeking a Motion for a New Trial, a Writ of Habeas Corpus, a direct appeal, and/or other post-conviction remedies, contact a Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. attorney today to determine your likelihood of success. You can contact California Criminal Appeals attorneys with us by calling (213) 800-7664 or submitting a contact submission here.


Justia Lawyer Rating
State Bar of California
The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 under 40
The National Trial Lawyers, Top 100 trial lawyers
Best Lawyers
Lawyers of Distinction
Super Lawyers
Super Lawyers Rising Stars
Contact Information