Certificate Of Rehabilitation—Petition For Certificate Of Rehabilitation

If you meet all of the eligibility requirements for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (see PG. 981) AND you have completed the period of rehabilitation (see APPENDIX W, on PG. 1056) (or you want to request a COR early), you will need to file papers (called a Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation) in the criminal court in the county where you currently live. Just like in your criminal case, you have the right to a lawyer to help you with the process of requesting a COR.

NOTE: You must request a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the court in the county where you currently live.

Get and Fill out the Court forms

    You will need to get and fill out 2 forms for your petition (together, they are called an Application for Certificate of Rehabilitation & Pardon):
    Notice of Filing for Certificate of Rehabilitation; and
    Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation.
    You will also need to get a Proof of Service form—but don’t fill it out yet.
    You can get these forms (and instructions for how to fill them out) from:
    The court clerk;
    The county Probation Department, or
    The Public Defender’s Office.
    You may also be able to download them from the website of your county court (or the court any other county, since the forms are the same statewide).


The judge wants to know that you are truly rehabilitated. You will need to show that since your release from prison or jail:

    You have lived “an honest and upright life,”
    You have behaved with “sobriety and industry,”
    You have shown “good moral character,” AND
    You have obeyed all laws.[3335]

The judge will consider all of these factors when deciding whether or not to grant your COR. Your petition should:

    Emphasize all of the positive things that you’ve done since your conviction (both while you were incarcerated and since your release), such as:
    your efforts at rehabilitation (treatment or behavioral programs, period of sobriety, etc.)
    what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed since your conviction;
    successful completion of your sentencing and supervision (parole or probation) requirements; AND
    any other accomplishments since your conviction, such as employment, school achievements (including any classes, GED, or degree that you’ve completed), volunteer work, community involvement (church, youth groups, mentoring), and family life.
    If you are requesting a COR to help improve your employment opportunities or for getting a professional or occupational license, make sure you say this in your petition!
    If you have had any new convictions or violations while on supervision, make sure you explain them—why the conviction happened, what you are doing differently now, and why you will not have the same problems again in the future.
    If you are currently required to register as a sex offender for your conviction, you must also convince the judge that you do not pose any threat of committing any sex offenses against children.[3336]
    You should include as many letters of support and proof of your accomplishments as possible. (See APPENDIX N, on PG. 1024 for tips on getting letters of support).

File Your Petition with the Court clerk

    Once you have filled out your court forms, make at least 5 copies and take everything to the court clerk to be filed. Remember, you will need to file your forms with the criminal court in the county where you currently live.
    When you file your forms, the clerk will stamp them, give you back the copies, and give you a court date for your hearing. Make sure the date is at least 30 days away.

Serve your Papers on the other parties

    You will need to serve your court papers on all of the following people:
    The District Attorney in the county where you live;
    The District Attorney(s) in every county(s) where you were convicted (if you have convictions in counties other than the one you live in now);
    The Governor’s Office.
    You can serve your papers in person or by mail.
    You must make sure that all of your papers are served on everyone at least 30 days before your hearing (or 35 days if you are sending them by mail). If you do not serve your papers in time, your petition will be dismissed.[3337]
    After you have served all your court papers, fill out the Proof of Service and file it with the court clerk in the county where you live (the same place you filed your Notice and Petition papers in Step 2).

Investigation by DA

    After you file your petition, the judge may ask the DA to do an investigation of your life, conduct, and rehabilitation since your release.
    As part of the investigation, the DA may contact you directly; may talk to your family, employer, and neighbors; and may also get any records or reports related to your conviction, including trial documents, prison records, and probation/parole reports.
    Afterward, the DA will prepare a report for the judge, which will help the judge decide whether to grant your COR.

The Court Hearing

    Make sure you attend your court hearing on the date and time the clerk gave you! Remember, the hearing is your chance to make a good impression on the judge!
    During the hearing, the judge will consider your criminal history, your behavior in custody, and your conduct since your release. The judge will look at any reports or records from the District Attorney’s investigation, and may also ask you or other people to answer questions.[3338] You should be prepared to answer any questions from the judge about your conviction, your life and conduct since then, and any information in your petition. Just like in a criminal case, make sure to stay calm and respectful no matter what is said about you or your past.
    In order to grant your COR, the court must find that you are rehabilitated and ready to be a responsible member of society—in other words, that you are ready to have all the civil and political rights of citizenship. If you are required to register as a sex offender due to your conviction, the judge must also find that you do not pose any threat of committing any sex offenses against children.[3339]


If the judge grants your request for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, s/he will give you your certificate, and will also send a copy to the Governor’s Office. The COR serves as an official recommendation from the judge that the Governor grant you a full pardon. The COR also automatically serves as your application to the Governor for a pardon, so you will not have to do anything more to apply for one.[3340] (For information about Governor’s pardons, see PG. 984, and APPENDIX Y, on PG. 1059.)

If Denied, The Appeal

    If the judge decides not to grant your Certificate of Rehabilitation, you can re-apply for a COR any time in the future.[3341] However, pay attention to the judge’s reasons for denying your request so that you can fix or improve them before you re-file. This will increase your chances of being granted a COR the next time.
    If the judge set a new period of rehabilitation for you (because you served consecutive prison terms, or you have a new conviction), you will need to wait out this additional period before you can re-apply for a COR.
  1. 3335

    Cal. Penal Code § 4852.05.

  2. 3336

    Cal. Penal Code § 4852.13.

  3. 3337

    Cal. Penal Code § 4852.07.

  4. 3338

    Cal. Penal Code § 4852.10; see also People v. Zeigler, 149 Cal. Rptr.3d (2012).

    (court could consider facts of offense for which petitioner had received Proposition 36 drug treatment).

  5. 3339

    Cal. Penal Code § 4852.13.

  6. 3340

    Cal. Penal Code § 4852.13.

  7. 3341

    See People v. Lockwood, 66 Cal. App. 4th 222 (1998).