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If you were convicted of a crime in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California in the past, you may be looking for ways to clear your record or reduce your sentence. One option to do so is to seek out a governor’s pardon for your crimes. Often featured in movies as a twelfth hour relief, a governor’s pardon in California is most often offered to those already released from prison and in limited situations.
How Does Someone Qualify for a Governor’s Pardon?
There are a few specific scenarios that qualify a person for a Governor’s pardon, though these scenarios can be applied to a number of situations. The most obvious cause for a pardon is when a person has been wrongfully convicted. A governor may also grant a pardon when a law was incorrectly applied to the case or where the sentence issued runs contrary to the interests of justice. Unlike how pardons are represented in the movies, the person pardoned is rarely still in jail; instead, they have often been released and leading law abiding lives for several years.
Though the pardon is sometimes confused with expungement, these are different concepts with different purposes. An expungement serves to clear a record of a charge and limit public inspection of it, specifically of the disposition. A pardon essentially forgives the person who was convicted of the crime.
What Is the Pardon Process?
The first step in obtaining a governor’s pardon is completing the application and mailing it to the Governor as well as mailing a notice of intent to obtain a traditional pardon to the district attorney. There will then be an inspection of the applicant’s criminal history and any attempts to rehabilitate. The investigation will also consider the reasons why the applicant is seeking the pardon in the first place.
What Affects the Possibility of Receiving a Pardon
There are a number of factors that could play a part in whether or not a person receives a pardon. For instance, the less serious the original crime was, the more likely that a pardon may be granted. Another factor is time; Governors and their staff will look at how much time has passed since the original crime and whether the person seeking the pardon has lived a law abiding life in that time. Behavior can also increase a person’s chances of a pardon. If the person had a good record while in prison, was a law abiding citizen once released and has demonstrated efforts to rehabilitate, then the chances for a pardon are much better.
Unfortunately, pardons are discretionary, which can mean that other, less official factors can play a role in whether a person is pardoned. For instance, the behavior of other people who were pardoned can impact a Governor’s decision making in the future. If a person is pardoned from a crime and then uses a now clean record or release from prison to help commit a new crime, a governor may be less reluctant to grant pardons in the future. Other governors may have run on a campaign of being tough on crime and less likely to risk upsetting their constituency by granting multiple pardons.
An attorney can also make this process easier by helping a person to navigate the process, correctly complete the application, and make the most persuasive argument for forgiveness.