In California, Governor’s pardons are a type of post-conviction relief that the governor can grant to those convicted of a crime, but now demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated. A pardon relieves the individual of many, though not all, of the consequences and penalties that come with a criminal conviction.
Advantages of a California Governor’s Pardon
There are many benefits of receiving a governor’s pardon. These benefits include:
- The right to serve on a California jury
- Improved employment opportunities, including the right to work as a state parole officer or a county probation officer
- California firearm rights restored
- Relief from having to register as a sex offender (under PC 290)
- The right to apply for a state professional license
- The right to not have witness credibility impeached because of the conviction, and
- A defense to deportation for lawfully present immigrants
Who is eligible to receive a California Governor’s pardon?
In order for an individual to be eligible for a pardon, their crime has to have been convicted in California, as the Governor of California is unable to grant pardons for convictions from a different state or country, or for a federal proceeding or military offense. Individuals convicted in another state must apply for a pardon in that state, while federal and military convictions can only be pardoned by the president of the United States.
Following a satisfactory period of rehabilitation, almost anyone convicted of a crime in California can apply for a pardon. The length of this period of rehabilitation depends on the crime, and can range from anywhere from seven to ten years. This period begins when the applicant finishes parole or probation, during which the applicant must not get convicted of any serious crime. The applicant also must be able to show that they are deserving of the honor of a Governor’s pardon.
Two ways to apply for a pardon in California
There are two ways to apply for a California Governor’s pardon. It can be done by either a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Direct Pardon. The applicant must notify the district attorney of the county of the conviction that a pardon application has been submitted, regardless of which method they use to apply for the pardon.
Applying by a Certificate of Rehabilitation
Applicants eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) can apply for a pardon by petitioning for and obtaining a COR from the superior court in their county. Once the petition for COR is granted, it automatically becomes an application for a pardon, which the court must send to the Governor’s office. After this, the applicant does not need to do anything else unless contacted by the Board of Parole Hearings or the Governor’s Office. There are some cases in which applicants are not eligible for a COR, as detailed here, but where the traditional pardon procedure can be used.
Applying by a Direct Request to the Governor
A traditional (direct) pardon is open to those not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, where the applicant submits an application directly to the Governor of California’s office. This application is available through http://www.gov.ca.gov. The Governor must have a majority of the California Supreme Court recommend a grant of clemency before being able to grant a pardon application to someone with two or more felony convictions. The Governor’s Office itself will send the pardon application and all other related documents to the California Supreme Court for review.