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How to Get a Pardon in New York

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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 New York.

  • What is a Pardon?
  • Federal vs. State Pardon
  • Types of Pardons in New York
  • Application Process in New York
  • 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feel they have paid their debt to society and are entitled to having any further possible punishments for their crime withdrawn may wish to consider petitioning the government for a pardon.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 New York, the application will go to the governor for approval.

In some states, felons must wait at least five years before being eligible for a pardon.

In New York, the length of time before being eligible to apply for a pardon depends on the severity of the felony and whether it was committed as an adult or an adolescent.

For a felony as an adult, the waiting period is five years for the most severe felonies.

For felonies committed as an adolescent, felons must wait for ten years.

Types of Pardons in New York

In the state of New York, there are two types of pardons.

The first is a standard pardon for a conviction in cases as an adult.

There are three conditions for such a pardon.

  • The first is where overwhelming and convincing proof of innocence becomes available.
  • The second is to relieve a disability imposed by a felony conviction, such as receiving a State occupational license for first-time offenders.
  • The third is to prevent deportation or to permit entry into the U.S. These instances apply when a certificate of good conduct or a certificate of relief from disabilities are not available.  A certificate of good conduct typically involves more than one felony.

The other type of pardon is for those who were convicted of a non-violent crime at age 16 or 17.

The requirements for this type of pardon include:

  • At least ten years have passed since the conviction or release from incarceration.
  • They have been conviction-free since then.
  • They were convicted of a non-violent crime.
  • The conviction was not for a sex offense.
  • They are currently a New York State resident.
  • They have paid taxes on their income.
  • They are a productive member or their community, working, looking for work, in school, or legitimately unable to work.

Application Process

There are a number of steps involved in the application process.

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

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

They may need documentation, such as a letter from appropriate government or licensing authorities.

They must have a clean criminal record after the time of the initial conviction.

Their personal background is extremely important.

The nature, seriousness, and length of time since their conviction along with their overall criminal record will be considered.

Any hardship they may be suffering as a result of their conviction is also important.

Involvement in community service or charitable activities will make a difference.

Felons will need to submit three letters of recommendations from character witnesses who are not part of their immediate family.

Part of the review will be contacting the victim and original jurisdiction where they were convicted.

Following the review, the application will be submitted to the governor with a recommendation.

The governor will then make a decision on the request for pardon.

Felons must list any bankruptcies, tax or other financial obligations.

They must include any civil lawsuit of which they are a part.

Additionally, they must include every violation, including traffic offenses, which resulted in an arrest or conviction.

Before submitting any such application, it will be important to consult with an attorney for legal advice and assistance with the pardon application process.

Even though felons may be pardoned, the original offense can still be used against them if they commit another crime, and they will still be considered a repeat offender.

If felons are successful in achieving a pardon, some things in their life will change.

While the conviction will remain on their record, they will no longer be subject to the penalties that typically go along with a felony record.

They will once again be able to own a firearm, vote, and hold public office.

Obtaining a loan or mortgage may be easier also.  If their pardon application is denied, those penalties will remain with them.

Supporting the Felon after the Pardon Decision

For families of felons who have achieved a pardon in New York, 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 New York?

Have you or someone you applied for a pardon in New York?

What was that like and were they successful?

Please tell us in the comments below.

1 thought on “How to Get a Pardon in New York”

  1. Thanks for this article, uplifting and informative. Was wondering if you knew of any organizations or Attorneys doing pro bono work to help with the process of pardon within the state of NY. Specifically in Westchester County. Thx


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