What is clemency?

After all other appellate measures have been exhausted, applying for clemency is a great option for someone seeking post-conviction relief in California. When doing so, the convicted offender makes a petition made to either the Governor, for state crimes, or the President, for federal offenses, to ask for full or partial forgiveness for their crimes.

There are five types of clemency petitions: pardons, commutations of sentences, reprieves, and restoration of civil rights.

  • Legal pardons grant the convicted offender full forgiveness for the crime committed and its accompanying legal punishment. However pardons, as with commutations of sentence and reprieves, do not erase the applicant’s conviction, but merely alter or void their sentence.
  • Commutations of sentence, however, do not extend full forgiveness to the petitioner, but instead reduces the length or severity of their punishment. With a sentence commutation, the Governor or President also has authority to make a prisoner eligible for parole.
  • Reprieves also do not cancel an offender’s sentences, but rather postpones it. Reprieves are seen primarily with cases involving the death penalty.
  • Amnesty is unlike the previously mentioned forms of clemency in the sense that it is a petition to remove all legal record of the applicant’s offense.
  • Restoration of civil rights is another form of clemency which, if granted, restores the rights the petitioner lost once they were convicted. Such rights include the right to vote, the right to possess a firearm, the right to hold public office, etc.
  1. What is clemency?
  2. What is the procedure for applying for clemency in California?
  3. What happens once a petition for clemency is submitted?
  4. When is clemency granted?

What is the procedure for applying for clemency in California?

To apply for clemency in California, the applicant must:

  1. Notify the District Attorney (D.A.) of the county in which the offender was charged and sign an affidavit declaring that they did so.
  2. Complete and send a notarized application of clemency to the Governor.
  1. What is clemency?
  2. What is the procedure for applying for clemency in California?
  3. What happens once a petition for clemency is submitted?
  4. When is clemency granted?

What is the procedure for applying for clemency in California?

The D.A. is the first person to review the clemency petition. Once they receive the request, they will submit their recommendation to the Governor on whether or not to grant the clemency.

The Governor is the next in line to review the petition. The Governor reserves the right to not even consider an application for clemency, however, if they decide to act upon the request, they will likely refer the application to the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). The BPH is responsible for investigating the circumstances of the request and recommending the best course of action.

Furthermore, it is important to note that in cases where the applicant has two or more prior felony convictions, the Governor must receive support from a majority of the California Supreme Court before granting clemency.

  1. What is clemency?
  2. What is the procedure for applying for clemency in California?
  3. What happens once a petition for clemency is submitted?
  4. When is clemency granted?

What is the procedure for applying for clemency in California?

Upon receiving a request for clemency, a variety of factors are considered, including:

  • The reason for requesting clemency
  • The nature of the crime
  • The sentence given
  • The age of the offender
  • The offender’s rehabilitation record
  • The offender’s behavior in jail or prison
  • The fairness of the conviction
  • The effect that granting clemency will have on the victim and community