How Long Does It Take To Get A Pardon
How to Get a Pardon from the Governor
A pardon is a legal form of forgiveness which removes any penalties and punishments related to the conviction.For example, if you receive a pardon then you may once again be able to vote, serve on a jury, or possess a gun. In the United States, you will seek a pardon from the Governor of your state if you committed a state crime. Alternately, you should seek a pardon from the President if you were convicted of a federal crime.
Preparing to Apply
Understand that pardons are discretionary.Depending on your state, there are different eligibility requirements for a pardon. Even if you meet those requirements, however, you are not automatically guaranteed a pardon. Pardons are discretionary.
Identify the different kinds of pardons.There are many different kinds of pardons, not all of which are offered by every state. The most common pardons are:
- Full pardon. A full pardon completely relieves you of the conviction and any attendant consequences, such as denial of voting rights or gun ownership rights.
- Partial pardon. A partial pardon will relieve you of only some of the punishment or attendant consequences. For example, you may be given back voting rights but not the right to own a gun.
- Absolute pardon. The Governor grants an absolute pardon without any strings. You do not need to do anything else to get the pardon.
- Conditional pardon. Here, you must satisfy some condition before you are pardoned. Furthermore, some pardons remain conditional. For example, if you commit another crime then the pardon is withdrawn.
Meet with a lawyer.Because the law on pardons varies around the country, you should meet with an attorney experienced in post-conviction relief. An experienced attorney can listen to your situation and offer advice tailored to your circumstances.
- You can find an attorney by typing “post-conviction relief attorney” and your city or county into your favorite web browser. If you can’t locate an appropriate lawyer, then you should call your state’s bar association and ask for a referral.
- Legal aid organizations are another option. They provide free or reduced-cost legal assistance to people with low incomes. To find a legal aid organization near you, visit the Legal Services Corporation website at www.lsc.gov.
Discuss other available post-conviction relief.You might not qualify for a pardon. However, states offer other kinds of post-conviction relief. For example, you could get an expungement. With an expungement, you do not need to report your conviction on any job application.By contrast, you would still be required to report a conviction if you were pardoned.
- With an expungement, your criminal record will be altered by removing or reducing certain transgressions. Depending on the state you live in, an expungement may act to completely erase the conviction from your public record (e.g., Michigan) or it may alter your record to show a conviction was dismissed (e.g., California).
- Look into commutation. A commutation is available if you are still in prison and are therefore ineligible for a pardon. A commutation replaces your old sentence with a new one, which could be shorter. Unfortunately, a commutation cannot get back your civil rights.
- Try a restoration of civil rights. Some states offer this option. With it, you can get some of your civil rights restored even without receiving a pardon.Once your civil rights are restored, you can run for office, serve on a jury, and vote. A state like Florida, however, will still deny you the right to own a gun.
- Have your records sealed. When your records are sealed, certain documents and convictions are removed from public view. However, unlike expungement, a sealed record can still be accessed, just not through ordinary means.
- Get a certificate of innocence. If you can prove that you were actually innocent and should not have been convicted of the crime you were convicted of, you should try and get a certificate of innocence. This document proves you were innocent and that the conviction should have never happened.
Research your state’s eligibility requirements.You will have to petition the governor of the state where you were convicted (even if you no longer live there). Typically, most states require you to wait a length of time before applying. In Florida, for example, you must wait 10 years after you complete your sentence and all attendant conditions.Generally speaking, other requirements include that you remain crime free and that you have no outstanding fines or penalties.
Understand the criteria the Governor uses.Even where sufficient time has passed after the completion of your sentence, the Governor can still deny the pardon. Pardons are typically granted where the Governor believes that the pardon is in the best interest of the public. Accordingly, the Governor will look at a variety of factors:
- Any positive changes you have made to your life. For example, whether you have accepted responsibility for the crime and been rehabilitated.
- The seriousness of the offense and how much time has passed. The more time that has passed, and the less serious the crime, the better your chances of getting a pardon.
- Your career advancement, educational attainment, community service, and family situation.
- Your reason for needing the pardon. You need to be as specific as possible. For example, you may want to run for office or to serve on a jury.
- The impact of a pardon on the victim.
Completing an Application
Get an application.You should contact your Governor’s Office or the state’s Pardon/Clemency Board in order to request an application. They can mail it to you.
- The application forms might be on the Internet. To check, type your state and “pardon” into a search engine. The state of Michigan has made its forms available at .
- California has two types of pardons: Certificates of Rehabilitation and Direct Pardons. Each type of pardon has different requirements. The forms are available on the Internet.
Gather information.In order to complete an application, you will need information about your criminal history (e.g., the name of the court, the date of sentencing, the day you started prison/probation, etc.) You should also get:
- The charging instrument for each conviction. This is the indictment, information, or warrant with supporting affidavit.
- Your criminal records. Contact the courts where you were convicted and ask for a copy of your file. You also could get this information from your attorney, if that is easier.
- Supporting letters from your employer.These help to show that you are being productive and have a stable job.
Complete the application.Answer every question completely, providing all of the required information.You may also need to supply documents as attachments.
- As part of your application, you will need to provide a description of the crime. It is vital that you take responsibility for the crime. If you try to minimize your involvement, then the pardon board will hold that against you.
- Once you finish, double-check the application to make sure you have provided all necessary information. Incomplete applications will be returned.
Ask for character references.Nearly all state pardon boards want applicants to provide character references. The application should provide information about how many references are required, as well as who can submit a character reference.
- States may also have particular forms to give your references.
Submit the application.You should keep a copy of your application and originals of all supporting documentation for your records. Mail the completed application to the address provided by the state.
- In some states, you do not need to pay an application fee.If your state charges a fee, then ask about a fee waiver if you cannot afford to pay.
Wait for any response.The state will review your application after receiving it. Typically, the state contacts the crime victims and the State Attorney’s Office or other agencies.These other parties will have a chance to respond to your pardon petition.
- Because your Governor has discretion about whether or not to grant a pardon, you probably won’t receive notification on the progress of your application.However, if the state wants you to appear before a clemency or pardon board, then you will be notified.
- You should also be notified if you are awarded the pardon.
Attending a Hearing
Prepare by reviewing your materials.Take out your copy of your application and review it. Pay special attention to your description of the crime and the reason you gave for needing the pardon. Also look over any supporting documentation, such as letters from your employer or character references.
- Make copies of all documents and be prepared to take them to the hearing with you.
Draft a statement.At the hearing, you might have a chance to deliver a brief statement.You should be prepared to make one just in case. Make sure that your statement covers the following:
- That you understand the seriousness of your crime and that you accept responsibility. Be sure to show remorse for your actions.
- That you have turned your life around. Explain how meaningful your work, community involvement, and faith are to you.
- The reasons you want the pardon. For example, you want to feel like a full citizen who can participate in voting and serving on a jury.
Wear appropriate clothes.You should dress up for the hearing in the most formal clothing that you own. Men should wear a suit with a dress shirt and tie. At a minimum, you should wear khakis with a dress shirt and tie.
- Women should wear a full suit (skirt or pantsuit), dress pants and a blouse, or a conservative dress.
- Make sure the clothes fit well and are not provocative. Opt for conservative, dark colors (black, navy blue, brown). Also be sure to cover your tattoos with makeup and limit jewelry to a wedding ring and a watch.
Attend the hearing.You might appear before a judge or before a Clemency/Pardon Board. Arrive early and prepared to answer questions.
- You should also be emotionally prepared to see the victims of your crime along with their families. The prosecutor (or someone from the office) will also be in attendance. The victims may deliver statements to the judge or Pardon Board.
Answer all questions.Expect the judge or members of the Board to ask many questions about the crime, the role you played in it, and your life since release from prison.Make sure to always answer honestly. The Pardon Board will pay close attention to how candid you are.
- Always address people as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” Also focus on remaining calm throughout the hearing.
- You might be able to have witnesses testify on your behalf.For example, you could ask a character reference to attend.
Receive the decision.After your hearing, the Clemency Board will forward a recommendation to the Governor. The Governor then makes a decision about your pardon. You should be contacted shortly after the decision.
Video: Hot to get a criminal conviction "pardon" in California?
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