Certificate of Rehabilitation

  • Certificate of Rehabilitation
  • Governor's Pardon

Penal Code Sections 4852.01-4852.21

A certificate of rehabilitation is a court's finding that you have been rehabilitated after a criminal conviction. It does not erase your criminal record, but it declares you a law abiding citizen. It makes you look more favorable to employers and would qualify you for various professional licenses. For certain offenses, it ends sex offender registration requirements.  

The application process for a certificate of rehabilitation can be invasive in many counties. Once the application is submitted, certain counties will do their own investigation where they interview your friends, families or colleagues to confirm whether you have truly been rehabilitated.  

If granted, you not only have the court's declaration you are rehabilitated and a law abiding citizen, it is also an automatic application for a governor's pardon.

Eligibility – Who is eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

A person is eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation if:  

  1. You must have been convicted of a felony and sentenced to state prison – or – convicted of a felony where you received felony probation or a misdemeanor sex offense listed in Penal Code section 290 and the offense was expunged pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4;

  2. You have not served time in custody since your original release;

  3. You have been a California resident for at least five years immediately prior to the filing of your Certificate or three years if you were placed on parole. Convictions for certain offenses require additional years before you qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation for more serious offenses like murder or certain offenses that require registration as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290; and

  4. Present proof of a satisfactory period of rehabilitation. The period of rehabilitation begins upon your release from custody. This proof requires putting together a packet with letters of character from colleagues, friends and family.


If you were convicted of misdemeanors not listed in Penal Code section 290, certain sex crimes involving minors, are serving mandatory life parole, have been sentenced to death, or in the military, you are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation. However, you may still qualify for a Governor's Pardon.

California Constitution Article V, Section 8

The Constitution of the State of California under Article V, Section 8 authorizes that anyone convicted of an offense is eligible for a governor's pardon. A pardon is a privilege and an honor that is reserved for those who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following a criminal conviction. It restores many personal, civil and political rights. The process is not easy. However, Hamasaki Law can guide you through the process.

Process – How does one request a Governor's Pardon?

  1. Governor's Pardon with a Certification of Rehabilitation.
    In most cases, a person will apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation before applying for a Governor's Pardon (if they qualify). The Certificate of Rehabilitation not only acts as an automatic application for a governor's pardon when granted, it is also the court's recommendation that the governor grant your pardon.
  2. Governor's Pardon without a Certificate of Rehabilitation (Clemency Applications).
    If a person does not qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation for whatever reason, like they no longer live in California or have been sentenced to death, you may apply for a governmental pardon directly.

    To apply for a pardon directly, you must first send a "Notice of Intent to Apply for Executive Clemency" to the District Attorney of each county for which you have a conviction. Upon sending notice, you submit your "Application for Executive Clemency" to the Office of the California Governor.

    Upon receipt of your application, the Governor may request the Board of Parole Hearings review your application and submit a recommendation. If you have a felony conviction, this step is required.

Benefits – What are the advantages to a post-conviction dismissal?

A gubernatorial pardon restores personal, civil and political rights. In most cases it restores one's right to own or possess firearm, relieves one from the duty to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290, restores the right to serve on a jury and the right to apply for state professional licensing. Although it does not seal your records, when employers ask whether you have any convictions, you can tell your employer you have been pardoned. This sends a powerful message to your employer that you are law abiding and upstanding individual. It is the ultimate relief from the penalties and disabilities associated with a criminal conviction.

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