I want to share a success story of overcoming the confines of being a registrant, and the practical steps I took. Of course, every case is different.
On February 22, 2018, I was granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation and relieved of the duty of having to register. After 11 years, the oppression was lifted just like that. After I gathered my jaw from the floor, I went down to the court cafeteria and just sat there. Pondering what just happened and the new possibilities.
I was convicted of an “Attempted Lewd Act” [PC 664-288(a)] in January 2007 after a high profile, albeit hugely controversial, sting operation that netted many including myself.
In 2013, I attended a job workshop where one of the guests spoke of an organization that prepares expungement petitions for free. Every Wednesday after 4 pm., Neighborhood Legal Services open their doors and their on-site attorneys help the community fill out petitions for expungement at no cost. All I had to do was file it at the court where I was convicted. It’s worth checking out, and I notice they still have an active website.
Neighborhood Legal Services has locations throughout Los Angeles County. I went to the location in El Monte. The address is:
Neighborhood Legal Services of L.A. County
Workers’ Rights Clinic, Wednesdays 5 pm to 8pm
9354 Telstar Avenue
El Monte, CA 91731
One must bring a witness to the courthouse when filing the petition so they can sign a document.
About 4 months later, I received a copy of the judge’s decision and minute order in the mail. In a nutshell, he ordered that my case be dismissed. However, the petition to have the case reduced to a misdemeanor was denied. Nonetheless, I was blown away and could not believe it at first. I had to read it a few times and rub my eyes to make sure. My case was dismissed. I was ecstatic.
Some recommended that I wait a few years (I waited five years) after conviction before filing for an expungement. That shows the judge that time has passed without any new criminal charges.
There was one sticking point, however. Per California law, I was still required to register as a sex offender. I learned that one must have 10 years of clean record in order to file for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
CERTIFICATE OF REHABILITATION
Over the years as a registrant, people like my probation officer and public sources made me aware that the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Office has a unit that handles Certificate of Rehabilitation requests at the court. Because I was convicted of an “attempt,” I knew I qualified. I just didn’t know to what extent. Would I qualify for just a COR? Would I qualify for removal from the registry? I thought it would just be the COR.
The contact person Rose Castellanos at the Public Defender’s Office (213) 974-2912, took my information. She informed me that I must fill out a form with my personal information and the reason why I want a COR. I must also provide letters attesting to my character from 4 friends or associates who have known me for 5 years or more.
I filled out the provided form. However, regarding the questions on why I want a COR and why am I deserving of it, I decided to type out my response as it would be longer than the few lines provided. In fact, I wrote about 6 pages or so of a concisely crafted response, including the determination from a required psychological evaluation that I did not suffer from “pedophilic disorder.” I also shared about my true transformation after an encounter with the love of God while I was in jail. I really put my heart and soul into it while keeping it briskly paced and professionally written.
On the day of the hearing, I brought copies of the cited psychological evaluation and related paperwork as I took my seat in the courtroom. The public defender asked me for a copy of the psych evaluation, so I was glad I was organized and she was impressed. After huddling with the lawyers from the DOJ and the judge, his honor read out his ruling. My public defender interpreted to me that the judge ordered that I am no longer required to register. At that point, it gets a little foggy as I recall she asks a simple enough question: “Are you happy?” I remember mustering a nod as I was in an utter state of confused shock. It was fine having the COR, but having my registration terminated was just a mind-blowing, out-of-the-park victory.
The ruling was under penal code 290.5, in which a new California ruling was implemented only a few years before (2013, I believe) that allowed for more types of sex offenders to be allowed a COR and termination of having to register. Just imagine. Only five years prior, I probably would have been granted a COR but likely denied the termination of having to register. Let that sink in. I give God ALL the glory. He makes a way where there is no way.
AFTER THE COURT ORDER
The public defender also warned me that the CA Department of Justice takes a few months to remove me from the registry.
A couple of months after the hearing in February, I noticed I was still in the registry. Therefore, I did some research and was provided the phone number of the area at the Department of Justice that maintains the registry, (916) 210-3113. The officer at the DOJ said they did not have any paperwork of a ruling so he asked me to fax them a copy of the court order. After another follow-up, they finally removed me from the registry in April 2018. That was followed by an official letter from the CA DOJ indicating that my requirement to register has been terminated. They definitely needed to be pushed and prodded for me to be removed.
In the weeks and months after my removal from the registry, I did some spring cleaning of my search engine results page and images. I was able to remove images of my mugshot and references of me as a registrant by simply asking the search engine or the website to take it down per court order. And they did.
My next step is to be sure any mention of me as a registrant is removed from many of the subscriber databases out there used by landlords, prospective employers, etc. I don’t want my history as a registrant to show up on those databases. Therefore, I plan to hire a company called Recordgone.com that is run by a law firm. For a fee, they scour 650 private background check companies and have them remove the information I want gone per court order. You can’t trust these databases because they are often filled with errors or outdated information.
At one point, Rose Castellanos from the Los Angeles County Public Defenders’ Office indicated that I did not qualify for a COR. However, I recall I was told differently so I told her. Rose checked with a co-worker attorney and called me back to say I was correct. Please note that Rose is not an attorney but a paralegal. She makes mistakes.
I hope this encourages those out there that are unsure whether you qualify. An “attempt” qualifies you for petitioning for a COR. The rest if up to the judge.