Certificate of Rehabilitation

A Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) (also known by some as a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon) is a court order declaring that a person convicted of a felony, or certain specified misdemeanor sex offenses, is now rehabilitated. If a petition for a COR is granted, it is forwarded to the Governor by the Court and constitutes the application for a pardon. The laws pertaining to the COR process can be found in Penal Code §§ 4852.01 through 4852.21, inclusive.

Receipt of a COR by the Governor does not guarantee that an actual pardon will be granted. The Governor has great latitude in deciding whether or not to grant a full pardon. See California Constitution Article 5, §8.

Generally, any person convicted of a felony who still resides in California may apply for a COR to the Superior Court in his or her county of residence, provided that he or she meets the strict statutory requirements for demonstrating actual rehabilitation. (Penal Code §4852.06.).

Special laws apply to those convicted of sex offenses. Persons convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses specified in Penal Code §290 may apply if the conviction has been dismissed pursuant to Penal Code §§ 1203.4 or 1203.4a. However, persons convicted of felony sex offenses under Penal Code §§ 286(c) [forcible sodomy], 288 [lewd conduct with a child under 14], 288a(c) [forcible oral copulation], 288.5 [continual sexual abuse of a minor under 14], and 289(j) [forcible sexual penetration] are not eligible for a COR. When a COR has been issued by the Superior Court, it relieves those convicted of some sex offenses from having to register as a sex offender under Penal Code §290.

For more information on 290 [sexual] registration requirements, contact the California Department of Justice, Sexual Registration Unit, or your local law enforcement agency.

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you must use the "traditional" pardon process. In addition, if you were convicted of a felony and a misdemeanor in the same case, you must use the COR for the felony, and use the "traditional’ pardon process for the misdemeanor.

Although you may move to different residences inside California without affecting your period of rehabilitation (see Penal Code §4852.02), continuity of residency in California is required for the entire "period of rehabilitation." See Penal Code §4852.06. Thus, anytime spent outside of California will not count towards your period of rehabilitation.

Source: Office of the Governor, Legal Affairs Secretary, California; Penal Code