There are some people whose criminal sentences may make them ineligible for an expungement, but who still may want to do what they can to “clean up” their criminal record for purposes of rehabilitating themselves.
For a little reference, you are eligible for an expungement if you have completed misdemeanor or felony probation successfully and are not currently charged with a crime, on probation for a crime or serving a sentence for a crime. There are also a few specific convictions which are not eligible for expungement (murder, certain sex crimes, certain crimes where minors are victims, and some serious weapons charges). Additionally, you are not eligible for an expungement if you were sentenced to state prison. That’s right, only county jail and/or probation cases are expungeable cases.
Now, what do you do if you still want to obtains some of the benefits of an expungement but you are ineligible? California allows certain persons to petition the court for a certificate of rehabilitation so that they too can “clean” their criminal record.
A certificate of rehabilitation is, essentially, a court finding that a person has been rehabilitated since a criminal conviction. It also acts as an automatic application for a Governor’s pardon. In essence, it is a court’s declaration that the person who had been convicted is now a law-abiding citizen.
While the certificate of rehabilitation doesn’t “remove” the conviction the same way that an expungement does, it can remove the requirement for persons to register as a sex offender in some cases and it states that a state licensing agency may not deny someone a license from the state solely based on a conviction which someone has obtained a certificate of rehabilitation for.
So, you might be reading this and thinking, “well, that all sounds good, but how do I know if I’m eligible for this relief?” Well, you are eligible if:
- You have not been incarcerated since completion of your sentence;
- You are not on probation for a felony;
- You have resided in California for the 5 immediate years prior to filing the petition;
- You have been “rehabilitated” – usually at least a couple of years – following your release from custody/probation/parole;
- And at least one of the following applies to the offense(s):
- Convicted of a felony and sentenced to state prison or other California state penal institution, or
- Convicted of a felony, sentenced to probation and conviction has been expunged, or
- Convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense listed in Penal Code section 290 AND the conviction has been expunged.
You are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation if:
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor,
- Currently on life parole,
- You were sentenced to death,
- You are in the military,
- You committed a federal crime or a crime in another jurisdiction besides California,
- Convicted of certain serious sex crimes
You also might be wondering what this “rehabilitation period” is all about? California has decided that, as a policy matter, in order for a court to, at least, consider your petition for rehabilitation, the person filing the petition must have had a satisfactory period of rehabilitation that ranges from 7 to 10 years upon their release from custody. “Release from custody” means the date on which the applicant completes parole or probation, is released from community supervision or is released from mandatory supervision.
There is the 5 year residency requirement mentioned above (must live in California for immediate 5 years prior to filing petition) plus 5 additional years (10 total) for:
- Certain violations of child pornography laws,
- Violations of California’s sexual exploitation of a child laws, or
- Obscene conduct / Indecent exposure violations
There is the 5 year residency requirement plus 4 additional years (9 total) for the following crimes:
- Aggravated kidnapping,
- Assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury,
- Use of explosives or destructive devices causing death, mayhem or great bodily injury,
- Any other offense that carries a life sentence.
The minimum 5 year residency requirement plus 2 additional years (7 total) is for everything else.
While this all seems pretty technical, so long as you meet the qualifications for a certificate of rehabilitation, Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Ross Erlich will assist in collecting your criminal records, dockets, and other court paperwork required for the petition. You will likely be required to disclose employment information, character/reference letters from friends and family and other background information. We file the petition in the county where you currently reside, not the county/counties where the conviction(s) occurred. The court will give us a court date, typically a couple months away, and they will conduct background checks, interview those persons you have enclosed character letters from and confirm the other background information you have disclosed in the application.
A court will want to see that you have “turned your life around” since the release from custody. This can include employment, starting a family, obtaining educational degrees, community service/involvement, involvement in religious organizations and the like.
If you have questions about cleaning up your criminal history, an expungement or a certificate of rehabilitation in California, contact Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Ross Erlich today for a free consultation.