People sometimes ask me; what is a pardon and how does it work? Well, here is some useful information for those who are interested.
Individuals who have been convicted of a crime in California may apply to the Governor for a pardon. A gubernatorial pardon is an honor that may be granted to people who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following their conviction. Obtaining a pardon is a distinct achievement based upon proof of a productive and law-abiding life following a conviction. Historically, governors have granted very few pardons.
For most, the first step in applying for a pardon is to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the Superior Court in the county where the applicant currently resides. A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court order declaring that a person convicted of a crime is now rehabilitated. Generally, any person convicted of a felony may apply, provided that he or she meets the legal requirements of demonstrated rehabilitation. There are special rules that apply to individuals convicted of sex offenses. If the Court issues a Certificate of Rehabilitation, it is then forwarded to the Governor’s Office where it automatically becomes an application for a pardon. The Governor’s receipt of a Certificate of Rehabilitation does not guarantee that a pardon will be granted.
Be advised though, there is no requirement that the Governor take any action on an application for a pardon. Once the application is received, it is typically forwarded on to the Board of Parole Hearings (Board). The Board may conduct a background investigation and make a recommendation on whether a pardon should be granted. The Board may contact the District Attorney, investigating law enforcement agency, and other persons with relevant information on the applicant.
The length of time needed to complete the pardon process cannot be predicted. Once a completed application has been received by the Governor’s Office, it is not necessary to contact the Governor’s Office to check on the status of an application. If action is taken on the application, the applicant will be notified.
So, after all of this, what does a pardon actually do? It is important to know that a pardon does not seal the individual’s criminal record or expunge the record of conviction (see my previous blog on expungements and petitions to seal and destroy adult arrest records), and the pardon itself becomes a matter of public record. When a pardon is granted, however, the California Department of Justice and the FBI are notified so that they may update their records on the applicant. The pardon is filed with the Secretary of State, reported to the Legislature, and is a public record.
A pardon will allow a felon to serve on a jury, will restore firearm rights to certain felons, will allow a felon to be considered for appointment as a county probation officer or a state parole agent (but no other peace officer positions), and it will allow specified sex offenders to be relieved of their duty to register in certain circumstance.
I hope this sheds some light on the pardon procedure and the effects of obtaining a Governor’s pardon. If you would like additional information, please contact me at 619-822-7332 @Pabstlaw