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Living with 290

Living with 290: Success Story – Certificate of Rehabilitation and Removal from the CA Registry

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.

DISMISSAL

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
(800) 433-6251

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.
Art

Join the discussion

  1. Ron

    Thank you for the encouraging post. I have the exact same conviction that was also expunged in 2010. I was convicted in 04. Everything I’ve read and been told says that any subsection of 288 and any attempts thereof are not eligible. My conviction was in LA County but I live in San Bernardino County. I’m going to make an appointment at the public defenders office in Rancho Cucamonga Monday. I know that they will say I’m not eligible. What can I tell them that will get them to dig deeper and accomplish what you were able to? Reading your story literally brought me to tears of happiness for you but also for the hope it gave me and I’m sure thousands of other men who were caught in a sting. Please let me know. Take care and thanks in advance.

    • Mot

      I am working with Miriam at the LA Public Defenders office in their Cert of Rehab division, I have a 664-288(a) and she says yes I can get a Cert, takes a few months to get the paperwork and to get in front of a judge. My offense was in Stanislaus Country but I live and was living in LA county . Mine was also a sting by sheriff department . Contact the the Public Defenders office and ask for the Cert of Rehab division. Best of Luck

    • Art

      Ron,
      I am so glad that my testimony encouraged you. I pray that the Lord will make a way for you to be removed from the registry. Do what you can, but also surrender the results to Him.

      The reason for the confusion in your qualification is because of the recent addition to the laws that allow certain registrants and those that were charged with an “attempt’ to be included. I think the law changed in 2013 but I am not a lawyer. But stand your ground if they tell you otherwise.

      Also, I know you are getting it done in San Bernardino County. However, if you can have it done by the public defender in Los Angeles County, that would be advised. Since your conviction was in Los Angeles County, ask Rose Castellanos or your public defender in SB County. The reason is lawyers have stated that Los Angeles County has granted a record number of COR’s and removal from the registry compared to other counties. I don’t know what the stats are in San Bernardino County. Not sure if they are more “conservative.” Orange County, in particular, has only granted a mere handful of COR’s in recent years. The judge in Los Angeles County–Judge Gordon–was very fair.

      Im glad you are getting it done during this window of time as the laws may change when the tiered system comes in. I hear they may make it harder to get a COR then.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.
      God Bless,
      Art

      • Ron S

        Thank you so much for your kind words. This is a huge turning point in my fight for my life. I’ll be diligent and pursue all your suggestions. Thanks for the guidance. I’ll post here once I get some word back.

    • AnonQ

      I just received a COR in San Bernardino County on Feb 20th, Joshua Tree was the court location. My conviction was in L.A. County but I had been living in S.B. County for some years. I had Chance O for my attorney. The best of luck to you. If you start running into walls or become overwhelmed I suggest you talk to Chance. He knows his stuff really well.

  2. Newly Liberated (a.k.a. "Anonymous OP")

    A hearty congratulations! Your immediate reaction reminded me of exactly how I felt when I was granted my certificate in January. It was truly surreal, and I felt like I was in a dream that I hoped I would never wake from. Well it’s indeed a reality, and you’ve proven once again that, not only can someone with your offense be relieved of his duty to register, but that the Certificate of Rehabilitation Unit at the public defenders office is very competent in handling these matters. Perhaps in other jurisdictions you may be better off retaining private counsel, but if you’re going to file in L.A. County then I would absolutely put my faith in Rose, Maryam and attorney Jane Marpet. Judge Sam Ohta may have an intimidating presence, but he’s a reasonable man. I don’t just say that because he granted me my certificate. I witnessed how he handled several other cases before he called my name. He even smiled on occasion while court was in session, so I knew he wasn’t devoid of his own humanity.

    For those filing for their CoR’s, once it’s granted you don’t necessarily have to wait a few months. My removal only took a matter of weeks, and that’s likely due to the fact that I called DOJ myself to inquire about being removed from the website. The receptionist at Rhonda’s office said that I could email them a scanned copy of my CoR, which I did. After a week following the email, as I recall, I was removed. Remember, even public defenders don’t have all the accurate and up-to-date information, and they really don’t concern themselves with how DOJ goes about their business. And it’s also not automatic that DOJ will alert all the other departments, such as Angel Watch Center or DMV (your criminal record shows up on your driving record too, and you may have to call their Sacramento office if it’s not automatically removed). So it’s highly recommended that you do your own work. It’s a little tedious, sure. But you’re cleaning up what’s essentially the aftermath of a nasty legal mess. Oh yeah, and make sure to also contact the agency where you registered to confirm that they received the notice from DOJ!

    Speaking of Angel Watch Center, my friend who got his CoR and relief last year sent them a simple form called a Certificate of Identity (at the bottom of there’s an optional section authorizing ICE to release any and all information related to you. I, of course, would leave that blank) which you fill out and attach along with any document confirming that you are no longer registered. They replied to him within a day or so informing him that they won’t be on IML and receive the “passport marking provision.”

    As for cleaning up the information on background check sites, make sure you do your due diligence on the company you hire. I know about recordgone.com and their firm Higbee & Associates, who in my experience have not been very attentive in returning my calls in a timely manner. So I would advice you to also check out guaranteedremovals.com as they have an “only pay for results” policy. Whichever service you decide to hire, make sure that they provide you a list of ALL the background check sites they claimed to have removed you from.

    Now, I’m not so sure they also help remove you from mugshot sites like mugshots.com or bustedoffenders.com, or “people finder” sites such as Spokeo or Instant Checkmate. Understand why this is critically important because, unlike background check sites, which in most cases employers or landlords will have to pay to access your criminal background, anyone can simply Google your name and find you thanks to sites like homefacts.com.

    As for mugshots.com, as I alluded to in my own CoR thread, they’ll remove you once you message them on their site requesting it. You will likely be contacted by someone via email named “Tom,” who, mind you, does not seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer. He requested the “expungement doc,” so I sent him the scanned copy of my Order for Dismissal. Apparently he doesn’t understand that this is the official expungement document, because he said it wasn’t what he was requesting and wouldn’t specify exactly what he needed. He just kept asking for the “expungement doc.” So I then sent him a copy of my expungement filing as well as the minute order for my case and told him that those were all I had. He finally removed my photo and info from the site.

    So, to recap, you must be extremely diligent in keeping tabs on what people can access online. In the spirit of service, which I had mentioned before that I am committed to for this community, I will be posting a list of the sites I removed myself from and how I went about doing it for each instance. Whether it gets its own post or gets placed in this or some other thread will depend on the moderator.

    • Ron s

      Thanks for another encouraging comment. This community has made a huge difference in my life for many years. I admire your commitment to others in our position and am looking forward to sharing my experience during thie COR process. Thanks again to all of you who responded and congratulations on your success navigating this maze of a legal system.

  3. New Person

    Congrats and thank you for sharing!

    You were very organized that you also included clearing your background after receiving the court orders. I never would have thought of that b/c I’m too mired in misery. I wished I could qualify for the CoR, but the new law takes place just before I can officially apply. Still, I love hearing good results from this community. God Bless you!

  4. christian

    Art – that is so awesome! Even though I am in Florida and the laws differ, I am still encouraged that ANYTHING is possible! I would like to speak with you directly about your process and the faith to see it through.

    Best,

    Christian

  5. Tom

    That is great and I am very happy that times are changing. I am wondering if this will work for Federal cases?

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