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Certificate of Rehabilitation
& Pardons (PC 4852)

Information on the law of pardons and certificates of rehabilitation is found at California penal code section 4852.

Certificate of Rehabilitation: A certificate of rehabilitation is a court order declaring that the petitioner is rehabilitated. The result of the successful PC 4852 petition will eliminate many of the negative effects of a criminal conviction (See Below).


A certificate of rehabilitation may be sought in most, but not all, misdemeanor and felony cases.


There are several requirements that must first be met before a judge will grant the petitioner's petition for certificate of rehabilitation. These requirements include:

  • 1) Residency: Petitioner must reside in California for at least three years prior to the filing of the petition for a certificate of rehabilitation (PC 4852.01(a)). Most sex crimes require a residency period of at least ten years (PC 4852.01(c)).

  • 2) Expungement: Petitioner must have his or her criminal conviction expunged pursuant to penal code 1203.4. Note: Some crimes may not be expunged. For those crimes, a direct pardon may be available (See Pardons Below).

  • 3) Period of Rehab: Petitioner must meet a minimum rehabilitation period, or duration of time after release from custody in which the defendant has not reoffended. The period of rehabilitation is seven years for most crimes except as provided below:

  • The period of rehabilitation is nine years in the case of any person convicted of violating penal code sections 187, 209, 219, 4500, or 18755...or any life sentence (PC 4852.03(1)).

  • The period of rehabilitation is ten years in the case of any person convicted of committing any offense, or attempted offense, for which sex offender registration is required pursuant to penal code section 290, except for convictions for violations of PC 311.2(b), 311.2(c), 311.2(d), 311.3, 311.10, or 314. For those convictions, the period of rehabilitation is seven years.

Note: The period of rehabilitation begins to run when the petitioner is released from custody or released from parole or probation, whichever is sooner.

Benefits: A certificate of rehabilitation has many benefits, including, but not limited to, the possibility of relieving the petitioner from the requirement to register as a sex offender for some sex offenses (See New PC 4852 Requirements for possible exceptions). These sex offenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Misdemeanor sexual battery: PC 243.4(a), 234.4(b), 243.4(c), 243.4(d), & 243.4(e)(1)

  • Misdemeanor seduction of a minor for prostitution: PC 266

  • Misdemeanor sodomy: PC 286(b)(1), 286(f), & 286(e)

  • Misdemeanor oral copulation: PC 287a(b)(1), 287a(h), & 287a(e)

  • Misdemeanor sexual penetration: PC 289(c)

  • Misdemeanor child molestation: PC 647.6(a)(1), 647.6(a)(2), 647.6(b), & 647.6(c)(2)

  • Indecent exposure: PC 314(1), & 314(2)

  • Pimping: Penal codes 266h(b)(1), & 266h(b)(2)

  • Spousal Rape: PC 262(a)(1)

  • Distribute lewd material to a minor: PC 288.2(a)(1), & 288.2(a)(2)

  • Attempt to contact a minor to commit a lewd act: PC 288.(a), & 288.4(a)(1)

  • Child pornography: PC 311.1(a) & 311.11(b) crimes, and more

Note: A certificate of rehabilitation will not seal or erase a person’s criminal history. Also, a criminal conviction that is the subject of a certificate of rehabilitation may still be considered in subsequent prosecutions in criminal court.

New PC 4852 Requirements: As of July 2021, a person seeking a certificate of rehabilitation for purposes of termination of sex offender registration requirements (PC 290), must also successfully petition the court for a termination of sex offender registration pursuant to PC 290.5, before the sex offender registrant's duty to register as such is terminated. This new law has not been tested it relates to Ex Post Facto issues as of this writing.


In other words, a person seeking the termination of sex offender registration through a PC 4852 certificate of rehabilitation, might qualify for such relief despite the new PC 4852 requirements. For more information on this issue, see Termination of Sex Offender Registration, PC 290.5, & Ex Post Facto Information.

Pardons: A pardon is an order that exempts a person from punishment for a crime. Pardons are granted to person who demonstrate exemplary behavior following a criminal conviction. Anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony crime may apply for a pardon from the governor of California.

Pardon Procedure: The first step in non-direct petition for pardon is to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the Superior Court in the county where the petitioner currently lives. If the certificate of rehabilitation is granted, an application for pardon will automatically be filed with the Secretary of State for the governor's consideration. A direct pardon requires the use of forms provided by the Secretary of State. The application for pardon can be complicated and it is highly recommended that the petition use the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer when applying for a pardon (or certificate of rehabilitation).

Benefits of a Pardon:

  • A release from the duty to register as a sex offender (PC 290.5)

  • A restoration of the right to own and possess firearms for non-dangerous weapons and non-domestic violence convictions (PC 4852.17 & Federal Law)

  • A restoration of the right to vote and serve on a jury (PC 4852.17)

  • A restoration of the privilege to work as a parole or probation officer, but not as a police officer (GC 1029(c))

Limitations: A pardon is not a sealing and destruction of a criminal record. If a pardon is granted by the governor the petitioner may still have his or her criminal record used against him in subsequent criminal proceedings (Other limitations may apply).

Sex crimes that qualify for relief of the duty to register as a sex offender after a grant of a full and unconditional pardon include:

  • PC 269: Aggravated Sexual Assault of Minor

  • PC 286(c): Sodomy by Force

  • PC 288(a): Lewd & Lascivious Acts upon Minors

  • PC 287a(c): Oral Copulation by Force

  • PC 288.5: Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child

  • PC 289(j): Sexual Penetration of Minor under 14

  • PC 311.2, 311.2, & 311.3: Possession of Child Pornography

  • PC 261.5(d): Felony Sexual Conduct w/Minor

  • PC 288.7: Felony Sexual Conduct w/minor

Call our experienced and successful criminal defense attorneys today to learn more about California pardons, certificates of rehabilitation, and Penal Code 4852. Call today!


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New Penal Code 4852.1 Law

PC 4852.1(a) Except as specified in subdivision (b), a person convicted of a felony may file a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.

PC 4852.1(b) A person convicted of a misdemeanor violation of any sex offense specified in Section 290, or a felony violation of any sex offense specified in Section 290 who is granted probation, the accusatory pleading of which has been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4, may file a petition for certificate of rehabilitation and pardon pursuant to the provisions of this chapter if the petitioner has not been incarcerated in a prison, jail, detention facility, or other penal institution or agency since the dismissal of the accusatory pleading, is not on probation for the commission of any other felony, and the petitioner presents satisfactory evidence of five years’ residence in this state prior to the filing of the petition.

PC 4852.1(c) This chapter does not apply to persons serving a mandatory life parole, persons committed under death sentences, persons convicted of a violation of Section 269, subdivision (c) of Section 286, subdivision (c) of Section 287, Section 288, Section 288.5, Section 288.7, subdivision (j) of Section 289, or subdivision (c) of former Section 288a, or persons in military service.

PC 4852.1(d) Notwithstanding any other law, the Governor has the right to pardon a person convicted of a violation of Section 269, subdivision (c) of Section 286, subdivision (c) of Section 287, Section 288, Section 288.5, Section 288.7, subdivision (j) of Section 289, or subdivision (c) of former Section 288a, if there are extraordinary circumstances.

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