Petitions for a Certificate of Rehabilitation & Governor’s Pardons

We are sometimes asked what can be done to clean up a person’s Record of Arrests and Prosecutions, more commonly called a criminal record or RAP sheet. The answer, as it often is with legal questions is: It depends. In the vast majority of cases, once convicted, a criminal defendant is placed on probation. Upon successful completion of probation, that person and/or her or his attorney may petition the court for an expungement pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4. This is the most common type of record relief, and Janssen Malloy LLP can and does assist people in obtaining this relief from the court often and efficiently, both in terms of the amount of time required to get in front of the court and seek this relief, and in terms of the modest expense involved.
However, some people many years ago made more serious mistakes – or the sentencing laws and how courts applied them were much harsher at the time – resulting not in probation but instead in a state prison commitment. In that scenario, a person who has served his or her sentence, complied with the law, and demonstrated that he or she has been rehabilitated may be eligible for either a Petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Governor’s Pardon. Either process is more involved than petitioning the court for an expungement, but the time and expense involved may be well worth it to an individual who has served a sentence and thereafter worked hard to rehabilitate her or himself in the eyes of society and the law. A person convicted of a felony loses certain rights and privileges under California law, including the ability to possess a firearm or ammunition lawfully, to serve on a jury, or from holding certain jobs.
The difference between petitioning the court for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and applying to the Governor for a pardon turns on one seemingly arbitrary qualification: that a person who has resided in the state, after leaving prison or jail, for the five years immediately preceding the filing of the petition and after the requisite waiting period may go through the court. During World War II, the Governor’s office was inundated with pardon applications received from ex-felons who were otherwise barred from serving in the military and working in defense industries. So in 1943 the Legislature enacted Penal Code section 4852.01, et seq., which created a procedure for persons convicted of a felony to petition the court for a certificate of rehabilitation. If the court finds a petitioner meets the statutory requirements, it may issue a certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate is sent to the Governor as an application and recommendation for a pardon, which the Governor is authorized to grant without further investigation. The advantage is substantial: petitions to the court are processed in a matter of a couple months; applications to the Governor may languish for years before even being considered.
Regardless of your particular circumstances, Janssen Malloy LLP’s experienced attorneys are prepared to help you or your loved ones navigate the court process to obtain relief from restrictions related to prior criminal convictions.