Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Clean Up Your Criminal Record, Part II

I've previously written a post, available here, about the process for obtaining an expungement in California.  Today, I want to discuss the procedure for obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation & Gubernatorial Pardon.

If you read my post on expungements, you'll know that an expungement dismisses a case against you AFTER you've successfully completed probation and satisfied all terms of your sentence.  An expungement will not "seal" your record -- your criminal record will still exist and it will still be public.  Rather than showing a conviction, however, your criminal record will show a dismissal after the expungement is granted.  This allows you to honestly state that you have no criminal convictions when you apply for jobs in the future.  An expungement will not restore your right to possess firearms and will not relieve you of your duty to register as a (fill-in-the-blank) offender.

If you were sentenced to state prison in a felony case and were not given probation, then you are not eligible to apply for an expungement.  Luckily, there may be another option available to help you clean up your criminal record.

Individuals who have been committed to state prison may apply for Certificate of Rehabilitation (hereinafter, a "CR") after a specified period of time has elapsed.  Unlike an expungement, a CR will not dismiss the charges against you.  It will, however, serve as an official acknowledgement of your reformation and continued good conduct.  When prospective employers run background checks on you, they will see that you made mistakes in your youth, but also that you learned from those mistakes and that you remained law-abiding thereafter.  A CR may also improve your prospects of obtaining various state-issued licenses (e.g. to become a nurse, chiropractor, attorney, etc.).

The amount of time that you must wait before applying for a CR depends on the nature of the crime for which you were convicted.  Generally, an applicant must remain law-abiding for 7-10 years after his or her release from prison before becoming eligible to apply for a CR.  You must also show that you have resided in California for the required period, have not been incarcerated since your release from prison, and are not currently on parole or probation.

To begin the process, an applicant must file several documents with the local court.  These documents are referred to as the "Petition for Ascertainment", the "Declaration of Rehabilitation" and an "Order Declaring Petitioner to be Rehabilitated".  A judge will review the application packet to determine the petitioner's eligibility.  Aside from the factors listed above, the court is specifically looking for 4 criteria:

-Has the petitioner lead an "honest and upright" life since his or her release from prison?
-Has the petitioner conducted himself or herself with "sobriety and industry"?
-Has the petitioner exhibited "good moral character"?, and
-Has the petitioner conformed to and obeyed the laws of the land?

If the court is satisfied that you are eligible for the relief requested, the judge will sign the Order that you provided with your application packet.  Once it is signed by a judge, the Order becomes a "Certificate of Rehabilitation".  A judge has essentially declared you to be "officially rehabilitated".

The court will then send a copy of the signed Order to the governor's office, along with a recommendation that the governor grant the petitioner a full Gubernatorial Pardon.  This is done automatically, without any further requirements of the petitioner.  If granted, a GP will dismiss the charges completely, similar to what an expungement does.  Unlike an expungement, however, a GP may restore firearms rights and may even relieve some petitioners of their duty to register as sex offenders.  A GP also differs from an expungement in another key regard -- having received a pardon does not allow the pardoned person to state on a job application that he or she has no criminal convictions.  It will allow a previously-convicted felon to serve on a jury, but it will not necessarily prevent deportation.

So, that's the process in a nutshell.  There are a lot more boring details that I'd be happy to discuss with anyone who cares to ask.

If you've ever wondered about your eligibility for an expungement, a Certificate of Rehabilitation, and / or a Gubernatorial Pardon, call my office for a free consultation.