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Clearing Your Record

Clearing Your Record: Expungements, Pardons, & Certificates of Rehabilitation

There are several ways in which the impact of a criminal conviction can be reduced or removed from your record. Expungements, pardons, and certificates of rehabilitation can all provide varying degrees of post-conviction relief. Consult with a knowledgeable Sacramento criminal defense attorney to learn about which of these options may help you clear your record today.


Expungement is a process by which a person convicted of certain crimes can clear his or her criminal record. Expungement can help you obtain employment, avoid deportation, obtain a state professional license, and prevent impeachment of your credibility if you are a witness at trial. However, expunged convictions may still be used to enhance sentencing, or may be considered strikes under California’s three strikes law. Further, if you were convicted of a sex crime, you may still have to register as a sex offender. Your gun rights may also remain revoked.

The expungement process reopens your criminal case in order to dismiss your conviction, and then closes the case again. Although you will have no longer been convicted of the offense at issue, a record of the criminal case remains, leaving an expungement on your record.

You may not expunge your record if your misdemeanor or felony conviction resulted in prison time and parole. Expungement is only for those whose convictions resulted in jail time and/or probation and a fine. Likewise, expungement is not available to those convicted of federal crimes, or those who have committed certain sex crimes, such as statutory rape or lewd acts with a child.

Assuming you are not barred from expungement by any of the above, you may be eligible for expungement if you: (1) are not serving a sentence, (2) are not on probation, (3) are not currently charged with a crime, and (4) have paid all fines and fees associated with your conviction.

Factors the court may consider in deciding whether to expunge your record are your performance while on probation, the seriousness of the crime for which you were convicted, your overall criminal history, and evidence that shows you deserve the benefits that expungement brings.

Pardons & Certificates of Rehabilitation

Pardons may be granted by the California governor to individuals who have shown exemplary behavior after a felony conviction. Pardons do not seal a criminal record, nor do they expunge it. They do not permit a person to claim he or she was not convicted of a felony. Rather, they are obtained for personal reasons, though they may also have a positive effect on employment or professional licenses. Pardons are a matter of public record.

Any person who has been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanor sex offenses may apply for a pardon. The governor has discretion over whether or not to grant the application.

A typical first step towards a pardon is obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the superior court in the county where the applicant lives. A person is eligible for this certificate under several different circumstances. For example, it would be appropriate to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation if you were convicted of a felony after May 13, 1943, and (1) you were sentenced to state prison, (2) you were discharged from custody or paroled, and (3) you file immediately after living for five years in California.

The person applying for the certificate must notify the district attorney of his or her county, as well as the district attorney of each county in which he or she was convicted of a felony. District attorneys may be asked to conduct an investigation before the court hearing, at which the judge may consider testimony and records. The certificate is a court order that states a person who was convicted of a felony is rehabilitated. If the petition for the certificate is granted, it is forwarded to the governor to consider for a possible pardon.

Those convicted of felony sex offenses are not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. However, those who were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense and receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation may sometimes be relieved from sex offender registration requirements.

If a person is not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, as in the case of someone who committed a felony in California but now lives elsewhere, he or she can still seek a pardon. Similarly, those convicted of felony sex offenses who are not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation may still be eligible for a traditional pardon.

If you or a loved one has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, you may be eligible to clear that record. Michael Wise is an experienced Sacramento criminal defense attorney who can help you evaluate which of the above options you may be a candidate for, and walk you through the application process so that you can get your life back on track. Contact the Wise Law Group at 916.498.9473 or via our online contact form today.

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