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How to Get a Pardon in California

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Felons know how challenging it can be as they move forward in life with a felony on their record.

It seems like the conviction penalties follow them no matter what they do and affects all aspects of their life from finding a job, to obtaining housing, continuing their education, or obtaining a loan.

For felons who believe they deserve forgiveness for the offense, a pardon may offer hope.

This blog post will cover the process of applying for a pardon in California.

  • What is a Pardon?
  • Federal vs. State Pardon
  • Application Process in California
  • Results of a Pardon in California
  • Supporting the Felon after the Pardon Decision


What is a Pardon?

A pardon is a term for forgiving for a particular crime without actually clearing a felony record.

Felons who have a criminal conviction for which they believe the sentence was too harsh or not deserved given the circumstances can apply for a pardon.

Felons who feel they have paid their debt to society and are entitled to having any further possible punishments for their crime withdrawn may wish to consider petitioning the government for a pardon.

A pardon is a form of clemency.

While a pardon does not erase the conviction, it goes on the criminal record that they have been legally forgiven for the crime and the restrictions imposed on a felon no longer apply.

This will allow them to have their right to vote and hold public office restored.

They will also be allowed to own a firearm.

Nevertheless, their felony conviction will still be part of the public record and able to be viewed.

Their felony conviction must still be reported in any situation inquiring about prior criminal history.

Federal vs. State Pardon

A pardon may be a federal or a state pardon depending on whether it is a federal or state offense.

For a federal pardon, a petition will go to the President of the United States.

For a state crime in California, the application will go to the governor for approval.

Application Process in California

Consultation with an attorney is important in this endeavor.

There are two steps involved in the application process.

The first step is to apply for and be granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

This Certificate is a court order stating that that person convicted of a crime is rehabilitated.

In order to be eligible for this Certificate, felons must have completed all aspects of their sentence, including any restitution for at least ten years with no criminal activity during that time.

Then, an applicant must have lived in California for a minimum of three years.

If felons’ convictions were from another state or in a federal case, they are ineligible for a pardon.

Convictions from a different state must be handled by that state.

Felons on life parole, sentenced to death or convicted of certain sex crimes involving a child under the age of 14 are not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

The application for the Certificate begins with obtaining the necessary paperwork from the court clerk, probation department, or public defender’s office.

Typically, an investigation is required from the district attorney’s office.

The requirements can include a rehabilitation period of five years of residence in California.

An additional five years can be required for any felons with a life sentence.

The court will expect the applicant to have lived “an honest and upright life”, conducted themselves with “sobriety and industry”, demonstrated good moral character, and obeyed the “law of the land”.

To determine these elements, the court can look at trial transcripts, probation officer reports, jail and prison records, police reports, and any relevant testimony.

Felons can state the reason for seeking a pardon, and how the pardon will help them accomplish that.

They can provide evidence why it would be in the public’s best interest as well as their own to receive a pardon.

It can be helpful to felons to make a case for living an honest life.

They can have their record expunged.

Having a stable job will also be beneficial, along with documentation of any education or training they have received.

For felons who do not meet the criteria for a Certificate of Rehabilitation because they do not satisfy residence requirements or were convicted of certain sex crimes, can still file for a direct pardon from the governor.

Once a Certificate has been approved and goes to the governor, the governor may grant the pardon with no further investigation.

Any felons with two felonies cannot receive a pardon in California except with written recommendation from a majority of the judges of the Supreme Court.

Results of a Pardon in California

The result of a pardon in California will not seal or expunge a felony.

It will restore many civil rights.

Felons will then be able to own a firearm in some cases, serve on a jury, and be considered for appointment as a probation officer or state parole agent.

Those felons convicted of a felony using a dangerous weapon cannot receive firearms rights through a pardon.

Additionally, if felons are successful in obtaining a pardon, they will have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts at rehabilitation have been acknowledged.

This is a huge part of a positive outcome.

Supporting the Felon after the Pardon Decision

For families of felons who have achieved a pardon in California, reinforce their efforts and the difficulty they faced in applying for and persisting with the lengthy pardon process.

If they can work hard enough to accomplish that, they can achieve so much more.

For families of felons who have been turned down for a pardon, continue to be there and be supportive.

Do not allow your loved one to get discouraged or give up.

They have lived with their criminal record and the consequences this long, and they can continue their quest for a better life even without a pardon.

Continue to encourage them to live life the right way and not return to their criminal behavior.

Don’t let them become one of the 2/3 who return to prison within the first two years following release.

So what do you think about this blog post about how to apply for a pardon in California?

Have you or someone you know been through this process?

What was that like and were they successful?

Please tell us in the comments below.

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