Proper Defense is proud to announce that we recently obtained a pardon for one of our clients. Initially in 2016, we filed a motion requesting a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the Fresno County Superior Court. After we successfully argued for the Certificate at a court hearing, the judge granted our request. We celebrated and then we sent everything to the Governor and requested a pardon. It was not until December of 2017 that we got the good news, the Governor had granted the pardon!

California Governor’s Pardon

  1. What is the process for a Governor’s Pardon?
  2. What rights will be restored by having a Governor’s Pardon?
  3. What is the likelihood that the Governor will grant a pardon?

1. Process

A Governor’s Pardon is a privilege that is granted only to individuals who have demonstrated exemplary behavior by living a useful, productive, and law-abiding life following a felony conviction. To apply, the applicant must have been discharged from probation or parole for at least 10 years without further criminal activity (this includes driving tickets).[1]
A. Two-Avenues

  1. Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the superior court in the county that the applicant resides in OR
  2. Apply by way of a direct pardon.


i. Certificate of Rehabilitation

Penal Code Section 4852.01 to 4852.21 lays out the law by which an individual may seek a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the court. To be eligible to apply the applicant must fall in one of three categories:

  1. The applicant was convicted of a felony and served his/her sentence in a California prison; and was discharged or released on parole prior to May 13, 1943; and has not been incarcerated in a state penal institution since release; and has resided in California for three years immediately prior to filing for petition; OR
  2. The applicant was convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor sex offense specified in Penal Code Section 290 that was dismissed under Penal Code Section 1203.4; and has been discharged from custody, parole, or probation; and has not been incarcerated in any penal institution, jail, or agency since release; and is not on probation for the commission of any other felony; and has resided in California for five years immediately prior to filing for petition; OR
  3. The applicant was convicted of a felony after May 13, 1943; was sentenced to state prison; was discharged from custody or released on parole; and has resided in California for five years immediately prior to filing for petition.

B. When to Apply

Before applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, the applicant must complete the rehabilitative period for their specific circumstance. The period of rehabilitation requires residence in California for five years, and an additional:

  1. Four years for persons convicted of Penal Code sections 187, 209, 219, 4500, or 12310, or Military and Veterans Code section 1672(a), or any other offense that carries a life sentence; OR
  2. Five years for any person convicted of any offense for which sex offender registration is required under Penal Code section 290, except for convictions for violations of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) of section 311.2 or of section 311.3, 311.10, or 314 (these convictions require an additional two years); OR
  3. Two years for any persons convicted of any offense not listed above and that does not carry a life sentence; OR
  4. Any additional years ordered by the court if the person served consecutive sentences.


A petition for Certification of Rehabilitation is then filed with the clerk and must be served on the District Attorney of the county in which the applicant resides, as well as on the District Attorney in the county where each felony conviction was obtained, and lastly on the Governor. Service must be made 30 days before the scheduled hearing.


At the hearing, the court may review the prior conviction(s) and any information regarding the petitioner’s conduct since the conviction. Based on the evidence presented the court may declare the petitioner rehabilitated and issue a Certificate of Rehabilitation which will be transmitted to the Governor and becomes the application for a pardon.[2]


ii. Direct Pardon

The direct pardon is available to those that are not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, generally those individuals that were convicted of felonies and reside outside of California, or convicted of an enumerated sex offense or misdemeanor. A direct pardon is covered by California Penal Code Sections 4800-4813. The applicant must submit a request for an application directly to the Governor’s office. The applicant will then receive an Application for Clemency, complete the application and return it to the Governor’s office. Notice of the application must be sent to the District Attorney of each county in which the applicant has been convicted of a felony. Additional investigation may take place by the Board of Prison Terms.


2. Restoration of Rights

A pardon:

  • Allow a convicted felon to own or possess a firearm, if granted a full and unconditional pardon;[3]
  • Preclude a licensing board from denying a license based solely on the prior conviction;
  • Allow a convicted felon to serve on a jury;
  • Allow a convicted felon to be considered for appointment as a county probation officer or a state parole agent, but not to any other peace officer positions; AND
  • Allow specified sex offenders to be relieved of their duty to register if granted a full and unconditional pardon.

A pardon does not:

  • Seal or expunge the record of an individual;[4]
  • Remove the prior from the individual’s record for purposes of using it as an enhancement to future criminal charges; nor
  • Excuse an individual from affirming that they have been convicted and arrested.[5]


3. Likelihood of Governor Brown Granting a Pardon

Applying for a Governor’s Pardon does not guarantee that it will be granted. Historically, many Governors were very reluctant to grant pardon. However, Governor Brown has granted numerous pardons.

Number of Pardons Granted by Recent California Governors:

  • Governor Gray Davis: 0
  • Governor Pete Wilson: 10
  • Governor George Deukmejian: 328
  • Governor Jerry Brown: 403
  • Governor Ronald Reagan: 575
  • Arnold Swarzenegger: 15
  • Governor Brown: 510 since 2011 (traditionally done on Christmas Eve)


If you are a convicted felon and have been a law abiding and contributing citizen for the past ten years, recognition by the local court and the Governor is the ultimate step to prove to the world the reformation in your life. For more information and assistance making this dream a reality, contact Proper Defense at 559-825-3800 or visit our website properdefense.wpengine.com.

[1] This 10 year rule may be waived in exceptional circumstances.

[2] Once the application is filed, the Governor may refer to the Board of Prison Terms for investigation which may involve the Board contacting the district attorney, investigating law enforcement agency, and other persons with relevant information regarding the applicant. If the applicant has been convicted of more than one felony in separate proceedings, the California Supreme Court must approve granting a pardon before the Governor may do so.

[3] An individual that was convicted of an offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon will not have their gun rights restored; a CA pardon does not necessarily permit the possession of weapons under the laws of another state or the federal government.

[4] The pardon becomes a public record, is filed with the Secretary of State, and reported to the Legislature.

[5]The individual can state that he/she has been convicted and pardoned.

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