Certificate of rehabilitation statute denies equal protection because it distinguishes between former state prisoners and former felony probationers with respect to eligibility for a certificate. In 2001, Chatman pleaded guilty to robbery and was placed on probation for five years. Two years later, he was convicted of a driving offense involving alcohol. He was later successful in having both convictions dismissed (Pen. Code, § 1203.4). In 2008 he was convicted of misdemeanor driving under the influence and spent 10 days in jail. In order to qualify for a job, Chatman sought a certificate of rehabilitation (Pen. Code, § 4852.01). He was found ineligible for relief because he was a former felony probationer who had spent time in jail after obtaining dismissals of his prior convictions. The trial court rejected a claim that the statute’s distinction between former felony probationers and former felony prisoners regarding eligibility for a certificate violated equal protection of the law. He appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded. Felons who have successfully completed probation may petition for a certificate of rehabilitation (Pen. Code, § 4852.01, subd. (b)) and thereby reacquire lost civil and political rights of citizenship. Chatman needs the certificate to qualify for a license to work in a group home. However, based on section 4852.01, subdivision (b), he is ineligible for a certificate because he was incarcerated in jail following the dismissal of his convictions under section 1203.4. In contrast, subdivision (a) of section 4852.01 allows a former felony prisoner to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation with no requirement that he remain free from incarceration after completing his prison term. Former felony probationers and former felony prisoners are similarly situated for purposes of this law. Denying a certificate of rehabilitation to felony probationers who are subsequently incarcerated, but not former felony prisoners, has no rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose. As a result, the statutory scheme denies equal protection. The court disagreed with People v. Jones (1985) 176 Cal.App.3d 120, which reached a contrary conclusion.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A144196.PDF