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Certificate of Rehabilitation

Certificate of Rehabilitation in California - Criminal Defense Attorney

Although California follows the national trend of giving people a second chance when it comes to clearing a criminal record, there are certain scenarios where doing so simply is not possible. For those situations, petitioning the courts for a certificate of rehabilitation is the best step you can take and a valuable one as well.

Time In Prison

Will the legal system give a felon a second chance in life? Yes, in certain situations. Unfortunately, the laws of the state are written by politicians who rarely are willing to risk looking “soft on crime.” As a result, the specific situations in which you can and cannot get a mulligan are defined by rather odd issues such as whether you spent time in a county jail versus a state prison.

No Expungement

Felons who ended up in state prison to serve their debt to society cannot have their criminal records expunged. The law is clear in this regard and even talented attorneys such as those in our firm can’t circumvent this rule. All is not lost as there is an alternative to the expungement process.

Alternative To Expungement

A felon who has served time in prison may be barred from seeking an expungement of their criminal record. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything they can do. One can petition the courts for what is known as a certificate of rehabilitation. This document does not remove criminal convictions from your record. Instead, it is added to your record and explains that the court has essentially found that you have turned the corner and become an upstanding, productive member of society. This certificate is then added to your record.


It might be easy to discount the value of a certificate of rehabilitation at first glance. This would be a mistake – a big one. The certificate is very valuable for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it acts as a counterweight to the negative marks that are going to appear when a potential employer does a background check on you. Most people don’t care for criminals, but everyone has a soft spot for someone who is truly trying to turn their life around. The certificate shows you are such a person, which could be the difference between getting or not getting a job.

Then there are more practical matters. Consider a divorce proceeding. When considering child custody matters, you can be sure that an ex-spouse will bring any criminal history you have to the attention of the family law judge. Having the ability to present that judge with a certificate of rehabilitation from another judge will put an end to that attack, particular since the family law judge probably personally knows the criminal law judge who signed the certificate! This can be the difference between getting custody of your kids or not.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention one additional benefit to the certificate of rehabilitation. When a court grants the certificate, a request for pardon is automatically sent to the Governor of California. These pardons are granted sparingly, but Governors have been known to grant them in mass during their last few days in office. You could be included in that act. Still, this is not the primary reason one seeks a certificate.


As you can imagine, the courts are not just handing out these rehabilitation certificates. The petition and hearing process has to be handled with a deft touch. Part and parcel to them, it is vital to show the following to have any chance of being issued the certificate:

  1. You have completed the prison sentence for your crime as well as any probationary or parole periods.
  2. You have lived in California full time for the last five years.
  3. Fully seven calendar years have passed since your release from prison
  4. You have not served any further jail time since the prison stay at issue.
  5. You have become a productive member of society.

The first four of these requirements are pro forma in that you either meet them or you don’t. The fifth, however, is another matter. We work with our clients to establish a foundation of evidence to show the presiding judge that you have become a productive member of society beyond a shadow of a doubt. This evidence usually includes sworn testimony from employers, civic group leaders such as ministers, parole officers and anyone else who is willing to stand up for you. Documentation is often used to supplement the testimony so that there is no means for the state to credibly argue against the issuance of the certificate.

By following this approach, we’ve been extremely successful at getting our clients certificates of rehabilitation and we can help you as well. Contact us today at 800-628-0285 for a free consultation to learn more.

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Our Clients

Jun 17, 2015

I thought I would have to spend another year on probation but thanks to you guys helping me with the early termination of probation I was able to get off a year early and get my record expunged.  Thank you!

Bethany S., Orange
Aug 15, 2013

You guys have done something great here.  Your expungement of my criminal record has opened up new opportunities in my life.

Jason P., Fullerton
Feb 22, 2012 saved my life!  I was having problems getting employment until the Law Office of Jimmy Cha was able to expunge my record.  I was able to proudly say ‘No’ when asked about any prior convictions during interviews

Sean H., California