UPDATE 2/23: Removal from the Registry (below)
Original Submission 2/9: Last month, I received my Certificate or Rehabilitation, thus ending my duty to register and bringing to a conclusion a decade filled with challenges and a sense of utter hopelessness and despair.
When this all began, I asked myself repeatedly, “How am I ever going to get out of this?” At my first ACSOL meeting (before it was called ACSOL), the dim feeling of hope I felt that day was still overshadowed by this vague and ominous sense of doubt.
A few years would pass before I reached out to Janice to inquire about filing for CoR. But any renewed hope I had was immediately extinguished when she mentioned that 290 registrants with felony convictions were ineligible for the certificate.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine referred an attorney who is associated with ACSOL and whose relative, unfortunately, was convicted of a 290 case. So as a result this attorney developed a certain expertise with these laws. After discussing my case with him, hope was restored once again. He assured me that, under the relatively new 290.5, I was now eligible for a CoR. He added that the public defender’s office has had “reasonable success” with getting their clients certificates. I was still skeptical, given what I had witnessed with public defenders and these cases.
So I first contacted private attorneys, some referred by friends or other reputable connections. What I found astonishing was that no two of them seemed to be on the same page. Some didn’t even return my calls or emails after the first phone conversation. When I met for a consultation with one attorney, a referral, he said, “These courts…” and then gave the thumbs down gesture, adding that my most viable option would be to seek a pardon from the governor, leaving me disheartened once again.
Having nothing to lose at that point, I decided to contact the downtown Los Angeles public defender’s office, who then referred their Certificate or Rehabilitation unit. After speaking to Rose, one of their senior paralegals, I felt encouraged, particularly when she mentioned their 90% to 95% success rate. Since their office receives a lot of filings, and they present only a few certificate cases every Thursday, the process would take several months. Rose said that I could get it done more quickly with a private attorney. So I told her that I’d think about it and get back to her.
I weighed all the pros and cons in my mind. These private attorneys appeared either incompetent, ill-informed and sometimes very expensive, with retainers ranging from about $900 to $15K. Then I thought about Rose’s unit, who does nothing but CoR’s. DTLA is the only court in all of L.A. County where certificates are handled. So it stood to reason that this public defender’s office knows that they’re doing. They know the D.A., they know that judge, and this is their sole area of focus. I thus decided to call Rose and file the petition with her office. If I were denied, I could always try again, perhaps retaining private counsel the second time around.
Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary. Rose, her fellow senior paralegal Maryam, and the unit’s attorney who handles certificate hearings, restored my faith in the public defender’s office.
So here’s what I learned in the process that I would like to share with you.
I had developed a mistrust of public defenders representing those prior to conviction, which I’m sure many of you can relate. I’ve seen some good ones, but I witnessed plenty of corruption.
Post-conviction, however, I have found the public defender’s office to be extremely helpful. Not sure exactly why. For whatever reason, it’s just a completely different world after conviction. My guess is that D.A.’s have more incentive to be aggressive when it comes to maintaining high conviction rates.
As per the written instructions I received from Rose, one of the steps I needed to take was to expunge my case at the court where I was sentenced. Attorneys and paralegals at free legal clinics where they help fill out expungement filings told me that an expungement wasn’t required to get a CoR. When I had that conversation with Janice about certificates, even she asked why I thought I needed to get one. After all, a dismissal still won’t relieve me from registering.
Well, this is what I learned. When I brought this up with Rose, she said that this is one of the things that the judge looks for. Remember, this unit specializes in only one thing, and they know that court more intimately than anyone else. So that point is not to be argued.
Secondly, it stands to reason that it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have the dismissal of your case on record going into the certificate hearing.
I was also able to have mugshots.com remove me from their site with just the expungement, free of charge! To me this is a very big deal as it is perhaps the most heavily visited mugshots site on the web. I can only assume that they’re playing nice these days now that the site’s owners themselves are facing criminal charges, not to mention countless civil suits.
DATE OF ELIGIBILITY
While the statute mentions that one is eligible 10 years after release from custody, Rose said that in her court it’s actually 10 years after the conviction date, which is about the time I filed.
CHARACTER REFERENCE LETTERS
You’ll be asked to submit with the filing a minimum of four letters from people you know. You’ll receive specific instructions as to what they should write on your behalf. They can be friends, colleagues, associates, etc., but they can’t be relatives.
Once submitted to the D.A., an investigator will call at least a couple of them without notice. They’ll ask your friend or colleague how long they’ve known you, how you met, etc. These investigators will often be former police officers who apply the same technique of questioning that they use on suspects or witnesses. They might, for instance, ask the same question twice to see if you’re telling the truth.
Whether you’re going for an expungement, a certificate or a governor’s pardon, I cannot stress enough how much it will help your cause by volunteering your time at charitable organizations. Mind you, some organizations will require background checks and will likely not admit you if you have a criminal record. But many of them do, especially ones that offer community service work for probationers. I’d recommend calling the organization to find out if they’ll accept you. I worked with two organizations and had them write letters on my behalf to include in both my filings for expungement and certificate.
I had a friend retain a private attorney for his CoR. This lawyer referred a forensic psychologist for my friend to see for a handful of sessions. On top of the $5K legal retainer, he had to pay an additional $2,500 for these counseling sessions. When I asked Rose whether or not I should do the same, she said that it’s rare that it’s ever needed for the filing and should only be done if the judge requests it. Again, I’m only speaking from my experience with the downtown L.A. court.
Once a certificate is granted the case is then submitted to the governor’s office to be considered for a pardon. Rose advised that I best contact his office in order to facilitate the process as it could otherwise take several years. For those who are ineligible for a CoR, you can submit such a request directly to his office. But with a CoR, your request carries more weight since it now has the approval of the judge behind it. We’ve been told that no California governor has ever granted a pardon for anyone convicted of a 290 case. But when I mentioned this to Rose, she said that such pardons may have been granted quietly.
For now, I’m just happy with the fact that I’m now removed from the registry. But to be honest, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. My info is still up on the site and will likely take a few more weeks before it’s all removed. Perhaps then I will feel more liberated. When that friend I mentioned earlier received his certificate last year, I asked how he felt. He said that he still can’t believe it, even a year later. He’s still recovering from the unpleasant experiences he had to endure while he was still on the registry. There are times, for instance, when he gets a knock on the door, and he has to remind himself that it’s not the cops coming to check on him. It’s like a form of PTSD. While I would never compare myself to those who have dedicated themselves to serving our country, my friend and I feel as if he and I are much like brothers in arms who have just returned from war. You’re never the same after going through such a dark period, and we’re grateful that we have each other to share this with because nobody else would be able to relate, let alone sympathize with us.
I’m further unnerved after having learned that my penal code, 288.3, has been changed under the tiered registry statute. Originally it was classified as a Tier One offense. Now, from what I’ve been reading, most who are convicted of 288.3 will likely fall under Tier Three, with the possibility of being Tier Two or Tier One. I regarded the new law as a backup plan in case my certificate was denied. Now I feel that I have dodged a major bullet.
For those who are likewise 288.3 (or any other eligible penal code) and are at or beyond the 10 year mark, the time to act is NOW! Once 2021 arrives the new law will supersede the current one, which means that you will no longer be able to file for a CoR to remove yourself from the registry.
After now being given a new lease on life, and witnessing good people be treated so unjustly by this system, I cannot in good conscience just sit by and do nothing. I will do my best to help reform a system that has clearly caused tremendous damage to our humanity.
I’ll be back here and drop in on occasion. If you have any questions then I will do my best to answer them.
I wish you all the best.
UPDATE 2/23: Removal from the Registry
This is a follow-up to my post on February 9th detailing my experience during the Certificate of Rehabilitation process.
Well, after checking the registry every day after being granted my CoR, as of today (February 22, 2019) I am completely removed from the California Megan’s Law website as well as the national registry. I, of course, checked multiple times to make absolutely certain that I didn’t make a mistake. Until I saw myself removed I wasn’t going to take anything for granted, even if the judge at my hearing said I was relieved of my duty to register. But I can now say with certainty that I’m no longer registered, publicly or otherwise.
As far as time frame is concerned, while my friend’s info took about 5 weeks to be removed, mine took just a little over 3 weeks. Perhaps emailing them a scanned copy of my certificate helped expedite the removal.
I immediately emailed homefacts.com to order them to remove my photo and information and submit the removal to Google, since Homefacts is the one private site that makes it possible to find this information by simply searching my name. I should be removed from their site within the next day or so.
I also contacted arrestfacts.com to do the same, although they’re less visible than Homefacts.
Based on what I’ve observed with my friend when he did this last year, disappearing from Google, Bing and Yahoo searches could take a few months. Images of him were still found in searches, but they led to dead pages when you clicked on them. Eventually, these images no longer turned up in any of the search engines. I also had to clear the cache on my browsers so that the old images didn’t appear in the searches.
There are also services that, for a fee, will help clean up your info on private background check services. There are supposedly hundreds of background check sites online. As with everything else, please research these removal services thoroughly.
There is one piece of misinformation that the paralegal shared at with me at one of the legal clinics. A CoR does not do everything an expungement does and more. So the certificate is not as all inclusive as he suggested. Either will benefit you in different ways. This is why it’s recommended that you get both. Again, please consult with an attorney.
I will continue to check in and offer assistance in any way I can to those who need it.
NOTE: this was submitted as an anonymous user comment under the original CoR Post. We thought it deserved its own post – hopefully that is ok with the author. This is an original unedited and un-fact-checked user submission and not to be construed as legal advice. ***Moderator***
Congratulations! And thank you for the write-up. For me, this is unfortunately a non-option as while I’m technically eligible for the CoR, my 10 year wait period won’t be until a few years after the tier registry goes into effect (I’m curious though if maybe the CoR thing will be retained for those convicted while it was still in effect, similar to how 311.11 can’t be reduced via 17b except for those convicted before the change. After all, how’s it any different of possibly not having taken the plea had we had the foresight that the CoR might not be an option and its replacement putting into a worse situation?).
I do hope that those that can do take advantage of this and your advice and regain their life as they’ve always should’ve been able to do.
Congratulations so good to see someone get free from this f*cked system. I have an attempt 288(a) the result of a sting; I did do prison time from 2001 to 2003 and wonder if I can now get the CoR? If you have any input of a contact phone at the LA County Public Defenders office, please
Thank you so much for this information…I have a similar conviction and become eligible later this year.
I feel I need to elaborate on Joe’s points regarding expungements.
Here’s the link to the official page containing PC 1203.4 https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=1203.4.&lawCode=PEN
Upon reading it carefully, the only mention of Section 288 (including any of its subdivisions) is that a violation of that offense would deem one ineligible.
What also caught my attention is that there’s no mention of ineligibility for those who served prison sentences. I’m pretty sure that this prevented one from eligibility in the past.
The code seems to have been amended recently, so unless I’m reading it incorrectly then I’d say that these are surprisingly positive changes.
In the end, remember that the outcome is at the court’s discretion. Even if you are ineligible, keep in mind that the judge can still do whatever he or she wants. So I’d say that it doesn’t hurt to try.
If you have character reference letters that I described above, then by all means, do attach them to your filing. I attached only two of my four, but I also included the two letters from those charity organizations. Even at an expungement hearing these extras can make a huge difference.
Also, upon the recommendation of the paralegal where I expunged my case (Torrance), I attached what’s called a declaration page. While the court can provide you with one to fill out, which is basically a page with lines where you compose a letter to the judge, the paralegal suggested that I just write a business-style letter. A declaration page is usually something that’s included when filing for an expungement the second time around in case you were denied the first time. But the paralegal said that it wouldn’t hurt to include it the first time around.
If you’re writing this in the form of a letter then make sure it’s formally done. Always start with, “Dear Honorable Judge.” Then you’ll need to make your reason(s) for dismissal as compelling as possible. No sob stories! I’m sure the judge has heard them all, so don’t insult his intelligence. To use what I said as an example, a dismissal would allow me to expand my philanthropic endeavors. I did also mention that DTLA requested the dismissal for the certificate filing.
It’s worth reiterating, though, that expungements are not required for CoR’s. I’ve had both paralegals and attorneys tell me this. One of them explained that it’s redundant; a certificate will do what expungements do and more. The judge even told me that my rights as a citizen have been restored. However, as I said in the original post, an expungement is what the judge at the certificate hearing (at least in DTLA’s court) likes to see. Again, having your case dismissed can only look positive on your record, and the court takes it into account. So if you can get it done, then do it!
As for the filing fee (I believe it’s $150), you will be asked if you wish to waive it. You can certainly say yes and fill out a simple form they’ll provide you. It’s highly doubtful they’ll bother to question your ability to pay it. They didn’t hassle me at all about it. The way I saw it, I’ve already given enough of my money to the system.
Again, I likewise wouldn’t waste your money on retaining a private attorney for this. The public defender’s office at your court can assist you in properly filling out the form. If not, then have them recommend a expungement clinic. There are plenty out there. I used the F.A.M.E. legal clinic in L.A. They’re simply awesome over there.
At your court hearing, you can still request a public defender to represent you when you go in front of the judge. But they’ll likely tell you that you know your own case more then he does, so you might end up doing most of the talking. If you decide to go pro per (no attorney), then just be prepared with the possibility of going head-to-head with the D.A. Hopefully yours will be like the one I had at my hearing. She was relatively cooperative.
You should be given 3 copies of the filing, one to submit to the D.A.’s office at your court (which I believe you’ll need to do first), the second one is for the court clerk, and the third one is for you. You’ll also need to include in the form the name and address of a third party who is supposed to act as a process server that submits the filing on your behalf. I just filled in a name and address and submitted it myself. The clerk didn’t hassle me at all about it. I can’t speak for other courts, though.
One last note on expungements. If for some reason the judge denies you a second time, you can file for an appeal on the grounds of what’s called “abuse of discretion.” In so doing, you’re arguing that the judge has been presented with no compelling reason to deny you your dismissal, especially after demonstrating that you’ve been nothing less than a model citizen and an asset to society,
I personally had my 243.4 a reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged in LA. I later moved to OC and filed a COR. I have no doubt it would have been granted in LA! The Judge stated he could find no reason to deny the motion, but it wasn’t enough? I’m hoping things change with the new DA and SB 384! Congrats!
First of all, congratulations.
I’m a little bothered by the requirements though. 4 letters of recommendations, none from relatives? Volunteer work?
I don’t know anybody. I don’t have any friends except for people from work and even then I don’t know them outside of the office. I only hang out with family. I’ve never been a social person really.
I’ve never been the type to do volunteer work either. I have my hands full with myself and my kids. There’s more than enough to do there.
I’m just a normal guy working, paying his taxes, trying to raise his kids (pretty tough when you’re committing a crime just by picking them up at school), minding his own business and not bothering anybody. Why should I have to change?
I know what you will all say, that being me is what got me in this mess in the first place. I reject that. I don’t see muggers, thieves, gang bangers, drunk drivers or anyone else having to ‘do volunteer work’ to get back to whatever life they want to have.
I know, it’s the game the state wants you to play. Play the game and you’ll be fine. Well, I’m getting really sick and tired of that BS.
My daughter couldn’t go to school this weekend for some extra credit volunteer work because I couldn’t take her. I can’t take my family to spend some time at my father’s house in Mazatlan Mexico because of the Angel Watch crap.
I’m not the one who has to change. The laws need to change. I’d be fine without all this. Just leave me alone.
I probably shouldn’t be complaining, others have had it much worse. I am angry. I’m just sick of the crap and need to vent. There is no other outlet.
The COR processes sounds counter intuitive to me. It sounds like it was made for career criminals, not one time sexual offenders. It is for those who always operated outside the legal framewprk. I never did that bit once. I suppose the tiered registry will take the place of the COR anyway. Seems to make more sense to grant relief after 10 or twenty years offense free, and that should be enough, in deference to the low re-offense rate. From the registrants I have talked to, and it includes myself, registrants by and large were upstanding citizens, had friends, family ties, healthy extra curricular activities before the offense. Maybe there were some unresolved secret problems hidden behind the social facade People just don’t understand. You don’t have to be an anti social loner to commit a sex crime and anti social loners are not predestined sex offenders. I believe that is the rarity. The registrtry challenges developing an economic, social, and philanthropic life, so if that were truly the way to redemption, they should help us along the way by abolishing the registry. You should do those achievements only for your own fulfillment and for pleasure of contributing to the good of others, not just to fulfill a requirement. I don’t get involved in things that much anymore, and I am not trying to become the best person there ever was to balance out the crime. That game just doesn’t have an end. I tried that, and the stress led to depression, led to escape. You have to accept yourself for what you are. I take it easy and low key now. It is a relapse prevention plan that probably won’t get me a COR, even if it is available to me, or land a page in a text book. I just hope this registry nightmare ends for everyone who just wants to continue a good life and will work modestly for that goal. No more silly hoops to send free people jumping through.
Here is my opinion on the COR. If someone has been offense free for 10 years, has led a normal life, has normal friends, a normal job, that person should be relieved of the registry. You can apply for a COR 10 years after conviction, so most likely, everyone has moved on, made new friends, maybe got a new job. So, how in the world would someone tell their new friends, co-workers, etc about an offense that happened so long ago? Of you ask them to write a letter of recommendation, you would have to disclose your offense to them, the very thing you want to put behind you. And, if you get your friends to write this character letter, it is like everything else. No judge will think you are great person because your friends say so. Time alone should be the only deciding factor. Same with volunteering. It sounds great, and if you have the time, it might make you feel better, but doing it just to please the judge is ridiculous. Any judge would see right through this. So, why bother with all this when it really boils down to what person you have become. I myself have done things in my past I am not proud of, but I am not that person anymore. Neither are any of you who made a mistake in the past. No judge should “judge” you based on what you did, but judge you by the time that has passed without another re-offense, regardless of whether you are volunteering or provide character letters. They should have enough common sense to see that people who have been offense free are no longer a threat, and that is ALL they should base their decision on. I’d rather see a person who does NOT volunteer for the wrong reasons, who does not provide letters from friends who are clearly biased anyways, and rather look at the person and see what they are doing now, and not what they did THENl.
Geting a COR doesn’t mean anything if you have any kind of 290pc offenses only thing that can free you from the 290 registration is a government’s pardon and in California no sexoffender has ever been pardon.
Anonymous ~ I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally appreciate everyone’s opinion on here, including yours. Thank you for sharing your experience. I think that some people just feel frustrated because we have to jump through hoops to get relief when nobody else has to. Volunteering, in my opinion, if you have the time is always a great way to give to the community, but a judge should not make this a pre-requisite for a COR. A lot of people have full time jobs, families, and also want to have some time to themselves, and volunteering is jut not an option. The character letters are even more complicated since some of us just don’t want to rehash the past and bring up something to our new friends that we just don’t want them to know about. That is pretty obvious and no judge should expect you to move on yet bring up an offense from years ago to your new friends or co-workers. The past is the past. AO ~ I think you are incorrect. I believe that a COR is the only way to get relief for offenses where you either went to prison for, or for sex offenses. Some sex offenses are excluded from getting a COR, and those are the ones that would require a governor’s pardon. If someone can shed some light on what was said in another post about being able to get an expungement even if you went to prison, could you share that info? Is that for offenses that were served in prison but due to AB107 (Realignment in CA) will have Post Release Community Service rather than Parole?
The very thought of asking for a reference letter is nauseating. I am self employed, so having a letter written from an employment angle is a mute point. As for clients writing one, I would lose clients pretty fast if they knew. As for friends, they bailed years ago, which says a lot about “ friends”. I reached out to a few to reconnect, but soon learned that I had made poor choices in that area. So where do the letters come from. How about loved ones in another country that would be lost without my support and keep me alive with theirs. Oh! Wait! Their opinions don’t count, do they.
With the current proposed tier system, would a COR be a mute point, since the offender on tier 1 would be elegible for removal @ 10 yrs. the time to apply for a COR is the same. Or would doing both increase chance of being successful. Also, does obtaining a COR garuantee that the government doesn’t “announce” you to everyplace you visit? Seems so easy for the government to say,”Oops, sorry we screwed up”, and destroying a chance at a new life somewhere else.
Anonymous OP That’s not exactly correct. You’re not covered under the IML “when you’re on the registry.” The exact wording is:
Someone who was convicted of certain sex offenses against a minor,
is currently required to register under the sex offender laws of any jurisdiction.
Now this is significant because let’s say you visit Florida and register there for your temporary stay but when you leave Florida your name will stay on the registry forever. This is true of many other States. Now you’re back home and you get removed from the registry there by virtue of years and offense or whatever. It’s my contention (not proved I don’t think by evidence so far) that you are not then required to register travel under the IML because you are not currently required to register in any jurisdiction. Not Florida because you are not present in Florida. Any legal legal experts care to weigh in on this?
Congrats! I’m almost at the 10 yr mark and qualify for Certificate of Rehabilitation, but worried about how my Static 99 score is going to hurt me. Non contact offense and no other arrests or violations, but I have a high score which is 6. Tier law would put me at Level 1 without static score but the 6 alone puts me at Tier 3. We’re you able to get a new static score or did the judge even care at all?!?!
Stories like yours are great to hear about!!!!!
I am heading towards the beginning of a COR process. I have the 1203.4 completed. You suggest volunteering. It would be helpful i agree but who would have us and where is the time. Law enforcement told me just stay away meaning dont be involved. So i have devoted my time to work and family. I have close to 15 years of life with nothing since my issue. My feeling is that should be the proof. My clean life. Working supporting a family. If that doesn’t show i have been living a good life i dont know what does. Its a roll of the dice. You mentioned investigators i believe the odds are against us but you never know. We shall see!
That’s so awesome to hear and gives so much hope! My husband committed a crime when he had just turned 14 (1999) and was convicted in 2001. He’s 34 now. They basically told him he would get a slap on the hand and counseling but boy were they wrong..this 14 year old was tried as an adult and locked up for 10 years! He was finally released in 2009, parole for 3 years and has held a job ever since. We’ve been together for 8 years, 3 years married, 2 beautiful babies, he has a great job where his company would like him to travel to Australia (not sure if he can or can’t, prob not) and WE just want off this ridiculous registry. Any direction would be most helpful, we will fight and do anything at this point. Much love.
Thanks for the reminder. I. Actually coming up for 10 years in a few months and was going to wait till 2021 for the tiered registry to apply to get off the registry. I am one of the lucky ones I guess, but not sure for how long. I was convicted of a misdemeanor 243.4(e)(1) and never listed on the Web site but looking at the tiered registry, I might be loosing that benefit. So I guess I am going all In and try my hand a COR now before all hell breaks loose in 2021. I’m in DTLA so I’ll be calling Rose. Wish me the best and I’ll report back later this year.
My crime was from Oregon. Would this still apply to someone who was convicted originally out of state?
Got my Cert of Rehab today in Los Angeles County court. I was the 2nd person to get a COR today for a sex offense. I was told though that I will have to continue to register as was the other person. Is this a change from previous COR? What can I do next and what should I do next? What freedoms do I have now? Does anyone know if any Governor has ever granted a pardon to a RSO?? Any up dates from those who already have a COR??