The Constitution of the State of California under Article V, Section 8 authorizes that anyone convicted of a California criminal offense is eligible to receive a governor’s pardon.
A governor’s pardon is a formally recognized declaration of the state that a person is entitled to restoration of many rights that were forfeited as a result of a criminal conviction.
A pardon is a privilege and an honor that is reserved for those who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following a criminal conviction.
The process isn’t easy. However, our team of post-conviction relief attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience helping previously convicted clients be granted a governor’s pardon.
Governor Brown has Granted More Pardons than his Predecessors
Being granted a governor’s pardon has traditionally been an exceptionally rare event. However, California Governor Jerry Brown has pardoned more people than any of his predecessors combined, granting 127 pardons in 2013 alone.
A pardon will not be granted unless it is earned. Obtaining a pardon is a distinct achievement based on evidence of a productive, law-abiding life following your release into the community from either a felony sentence served in jail, prison sentence or your discharge from probation or parole.
Generally, an applicant must fulfill minimum eligibility requirements, including:
- Completed his or her probation or parole at least 10 years ago; and
- Has not committed any other crime since.
It is important that you understand that you are only eligible to receive a California governor’s pardon for a California conviction. Out of state, federal and military convictions cannot be pardoned, even if you are a long-term California resident.
How Do You Apply for a Governor’s Pardon?
A governor’s pardon may be obtained through two methods:
- Upon automatic application after being granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation; or
- A direct pardon.
In most cases, the first step in applying for a governor’s pardon is to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the Superior Court in the county where you reside. People who reside out of state or who are otherwise ineligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation must use a process called the direct pardon.
Certificate of Rehabilitation (Penal Code Section 4852.01, et seq.)
A Certificate of Rehabilitation (PC 4852.01, et seq.) is a court order declaring that the state recognizes you to be completely rehabilitated following your criminal conviction. You may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation if:
You were convicted of either:
- A qualifying California felony, or
- A misdemeanor sex crime for which sex offender registration is required under Penal Code Section 290 and for which your conviction was dismissed or set aside by the court pursuant to Penal Code Section 1203.4 (often referred to as an “expungement”);
- You were released from custody, probation or parole and have not served time in jail or prison since;
- You meet minimum rehabilitation period requirements as defined in Penal Code Section 4852.03;
- No current criminal charges are pending against you;
- You have been a California resident for at least five years prior to your application for a Certificate of Rehabilitation; and
- You are able to document that you have led an honest, sober and law-abiding life since your conviction.
If a Superior Court judge grants you a Certificate of Rehabilitation, this will serve as an automatic application for a governor’s pardon. The court will forward your information to the governor’s office and your certificate will act as the court’s recommendation to the governor that you be granted a pardon.
It is important that anyone convicted of a California crime requiring lifetime sex offender registration understand that while being granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation speaks volumes about your character, it usually will not relieve you of your duty to register (Penal Code Section 290.5). To obtain this relief, you must receive a governor’s pardon.
The Direct Pardon
The direct pardon procedure is available to you if you are otherwise ineligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. This process is formally known as an “Application for Executive Clemency.” You must use the direct pardon approach if you:
- No longer reside in California;
- Were convicted of one of the following sex offenses in California:
- Sodomy with a minor, (Penal Code 286 (c));
- Lewd acts with a minor under the age of 14 (Penal Code 288);
- Oral copulation with a minor (Penal Code 288a (c));
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child (Penal Code 288.5); or
- Forcible acts of sexual penetration with a child (Penal Code 289(j).
- Were convicted of a misdemeanor for which sex offender registration is not required,
- Are serving a mandatory life parole, or
- Have been sentenced to death.
To apply using direct pardon, you must send a Notice of Intent to Apply for Executive Clemency to the District Attorney of each county in which you were convicted. Having acknowledged receipt of your Notice of Intent, the D.A.’s office returns the notice to the governor’s office. You then forward your completed application for clemency to the governor’s office in Sacramento.
You must include in your application the following:
- Your personal identifying information;
- Details regarding the crime for which you are requesting a pardon;
- All of your prior convictions, including those from any other jurisdiction other than California;
- Why you are requesting a pardon, and
- The reasons why you believe a pardon is justified, such as:
- Your rehabilitation efforts while incarcerated and following your release, and
- Your disciplinary record while in custody, on probation or on parole.
The Review Process
Once your application is received, the governor typically asks the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) for their review and recommendation. If you have two or more felony convictions on your record, the governor is required to have the BPH review your application.
The BPH usually conducts a background investigation prior to making a recommendation on whether a pardon should be granted. The BPH may contact the District Attorney, investigating law enforcement agencies and any other relevant sources to gather information about you.
If you have been convicted of more than one felony, the California Supreme Court must review your application and give its recommendation for a pardon prior to the governor granting your request.
There is no time limit for the governor’s office to respond to your clemency application. You must be patient. You will be notified if the Governor takes action on your application.
What Does a Governor’s Pardon Do?
If you receive a governor’s pardon, you are entitled to the following restoration of rights:
- Allows you to serve on a jury if you were convicted of a felony (Code. Civ. Proc., § 203, subd. (a)(5).);
- Permits restoration of your right to bear a firearm upon federal approval if you have obtained a Certificate of Rehabilitation, provided you are granted a full and unconditional pardon, except those convicted of a felony involving a dangerous weapon (Penal Code § 4852.17);
- Allows you to be considered for appointment as a county probation officer or a state parole agent, but not to any other peace officer positions (Gov. Code § 1029, subd. (c).);
- Allows relief from the duty to register pursuant to Penal Code 290 for sex offenders ineligible for relief after obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation (Penal Code § 290.5, subd. (a)(2).).
What Doesn’t a Governor’s Pardon Do?
A governor’s pardon will not:
- Seal or erase your record of conviction;
- Prevent the pardoned offense from being considered as a prior conviction if you are convicted of a new offense in the future;
- Allow you to report on an employment application or during an interview that you have no record of conviction;
- Restore your right to own or carry a firearm if you’ve been convicted of a felony involving the use of a dangerous weapon (Penal Code § 4854);
- Prevent your deportation, if you are not a U.S. citizen.
Wallin & Klarich Can Help You Receive a Governor’s Pardon
If you or someone in your family is interested in applying for a governor’s pardon, contact our experienced post-conviction relief attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully petitioning the governor’s office on behalf of our clients seeking a pardon.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, Wallin & Klarich has a proven track record of success assisting our eligible clients to restore their dignity and solidify their hard earned good reputation by seeking a governor’s pardon. We can help you live a better life.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.