California Clemency, Pardons & commutation of Sentences :
How to apply for Clemency in California.

Purpose of " California Clemency, Pardons & commutation of Sentences"

The California Clemency process is quite complicated in nature. Know the California Clemency application, California Clemency Process, California Clemency form and other related resources available through California governor clemency office for application.

One of the primary purposes of executive clemency power in California is to correct injustices. This can come in the form of harsh sentences or unfairness in the legal process. In addition, clemency powers encourage convicted individuals to be accountable and accept responsibility. Also, clemency helps rehabilitated individuals to integrate into society and lead productive lives.

The California Clemency Process

  • Primarily, clemency involves an official pardon, reprieve or reduction in prison sentences from a government authority.
  • While those convicted of a federal crime must seek clemency from the president, the California governor approves clemency petitions for those convicted of a state crime in California courts. As explained below, the California clemency process is quite complex.

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    California Clemency Application form

  • Above all, clemency is a chance for the convicted individual to put their life back together.
  • The consequences of a criminal conviction can last far beyond serving a prison sentence.
  • As such, it is important to take clemency opportunities seriously. Along those lines, anyone considering a clemency petition should first seek out experienced legal representation to apply. Please schedule a free consultation to understand California clemency form for pardon application.

Where Do the Governor’s California Clemency Powers Come From?

  • The California Constitution lays out the clemency powers that the governor can exercise.
  • They are defined in Article V, Section 8: “subject to application procedures provided by statute, the Governor, on conditions the Governor deems proper, may grant a reprieve, pardon, and commutation, after sentence, except in the case of impeachment.”
  • However, the major restriction on the California governor’s clemency powers is for twice-convicted felons.
  • Before the governor issues a pardon or commutation, the California Supreme Court must approve the governor’s request for two-time convicted felons.

The Role of the California Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) in Reviewing California Clemency Applications

  • In addition to his own review, the California governor may consult with the Board of Parole Hearings (“BPH”) - California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in clemency cases. This body replaced the former Board of Prison Terms.
  • Generally, it is responsible for investigating California clemency applications.
  • The Board of Parole Hearings ensures that applicants meet the California clemency requirements of California Penal Code section 4852.05: "During the period of rehabilitation, the person shall live an honest and upright life, shall conduct himself or herself with sobriety and industry, shall exhibit a good moral character, and shall conform to and obey the laws of the land."
  • Keep in mind that the governor does not have to follow the recommendations of the Board of Parole Hearings.
  • All recommendations of the Board of Parole Hearings are non-binding. The governor may disagree with the decision and act accordingly.

Who is Eligible for a Governor's Pardon in California?

  • Before applying for a pardon, you must make sure that a California state court convicted you of a California crime.
  • Anyone convicted in another state or in federal court may qualify for a pardon in that state or from the president.
  • This is true even if you live in California when applying for a pardon.
  • You do not necessarily have to reside in California to apply to the governor directly for a pardon.

Who Can Receive a California Governor's Pardon?

  • All inmates may apply for a governor’s pardon.
  • But those with a criminal record may have a more complex case.
  • For example, anyone convicted of two or more felonies needs additional approval for a California governor’s pardon. In those cases, four of the seven California Supreme Court Justices must approve the application.

How Do You Get Clemency in California?

  • California clemency applications typically include commutation or pardon requests.
  • While a commutation reduces a prison sentence, a pardon forgives the defendant for a crime.
  • Importantly, this is different from an expungement. California clemency does not seal or destroy records of a conviction.
  • All California clemency petitions involve written California clemency forms and investigations by government agencies.
  • It is crucial to fill out the California clemency form application under the supervision of a attorney to avoid mistakes.
  • The California governor grants pardon and commutation applications based on the specific circumstances of each application.

How to Get a Pardon in California?

  • There are two general ways to seek California clemency via a pardon.
  • First, you may apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. Essentially, this is a court order that officially declares the applicant rehabilitated.
  • Second, you may apply directly to the governor for a pardon. Upon denial of a Certificate of Rehabilitation, an applicant can seek California clemency through a direct pardon.
  • Alternatively, an applicant may apply for a direct pardon without first seeking a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

Applying for a Direct Pardon in California

  • One of the main reasons why some applicants seek a direct pardon is that they live outside of California. Consequently, they are ineligible for the Certificate of Rehabilitation based on the residency requirement.
  • Although there is an online California clemency form application , "do not mistakenly submit this form" without first talking to an attorney.
  • You can delay or jeopardize your pardon application by not filling it out correctly or honestly.
  • Therefore, an experienced clemency petition attorney can help you avoid delays and complications in submitting the form.

Completing the California Pardon Application

One of the significant issues to discuss with an attorney is whether to admit responsibility for the offense. You can maintain your innocence and still apply for a pardon. However, you do not want to appear to minimize the crime’s impact. A defense attorney can help with framing your response to questions about taking responsibility for any crimes.

Finding Out the Status of Your California Pardon Application

  • After submitting a pardon application, you may not receive direct notice that it was denied. Thus, failure to receive approval means that the governor rejected the application. A criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with the California clemency process can help navigate the process for you.
  • If you filed the California clemency form application in the past three years, you do not necessarily have to file a new application. Instead, you can complete the California Re-application for Commutation and Pardon.
  • However, you can still send in additional documents in support. After three years, you will need to send in a new California pardon application. Be sure to include all relevant documents with the new application.
  • The governor’s office will not review your previous application to find any missing information.

Expediting the Review Process for a California Pardon Application

Per the Pardon and Commutation Reform Act of 2018 (AB 2845), the Board of Parole Hearings considers an expedited review of pardon applications when necessary. But the applicant must show why they deserve an immediate review. For instance, an applicant facing deportation may request an expedited review.

What California Clemency Factors Does the Governor Consider for Pardon Applications?

  • The Governor’s Office relies on the Board of Parole Hearings to investigate pardon applications and review  submitted California clemency forms .Therefore, pardon applicants must carefully complete all aspects of the application.
  • Undoubtedly, submitting false or incomplete application on a pardon application complicates the investigation. Even worse, it may result in a rejection.
  • The Board of Parole Hearings considers several factors for each application.
  • First, it evaluates the potential impact of the pardon on the victim, offender, families involved, public and justice system. Then, it considers the offender’s age and circumstances when the crime occurred.
  • Next, the Board of Parole Hearings examines the applicant’s behavior since conviction. This includes any treatment sought and self-improvement initiatives. Finally, it looks into why the applicant needs a pardon.
  • All in all, the applicant’s efforts at rehabilitation after conviction are crucial.
  • A proactive criminal defense attorney can assist with gathering helpful documents and evidence.
  • It is essential to put your best foot forward in demonstrating full rehabilitation. This requires a sound strategy to seek out letters in support of your application and proof of your rehabilitative efforts.

How Do I File a Commutation Sentence in California?

  • The commutation of sentence California form is available from the Office of Governor. However, California clemency applicants should not submit this form without consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
  • Additionally, you must submit the Notice of Intent to Apply for Clemency to the California district attorney. Only the district attorney for the county that entered the conviction receives a copy. Lastly, you must complete and sign the Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information. This is only necessary for those seeking a commutation based on a serious illness or medical condition. Accordingly, you must have proof of a debilitating medical condition to warrant early release from prison.

Can I Seek a Commutation in California for a Second Felony Conviction?

  • While you may receive a commutation for a second felony conviction, the process is more complicated.
  • The governor cannot approve the application without California Supreme Court approval. After a full investigation, at least four Supreme Court judges must approve the application.
  • The applicant does not testify in court to support his application.
  • The justices simply vote on a form to approve or deny it. Then, the chief justice sends a letter to the governor with the final vote results.
  • Unfortunately, the governor may deny the application even after court approval. Also, there is no time limit for approval.

How Do You Get a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

  • The California Superior Court issues a Certificate of Rehabilitation to the applicant directly. The county court where the applicant currently resides issues the certificate. Once issued, the court must send it to the governor’s office directly.
  • The governor treats all Certificates of Rehabilitation as California clemency petitions automatically. Even so, pardon applicants might have additional support for their petition. They should consult with a California clemency attorney like Attorney Brandon Sample to navigate this process. Supporting documents can be the deciding evidence for California pardon applications.
  • Firstly, you must live in California for three years prior to applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. Those convicted of a sex offense involving a minor age 14 or younger are ineligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. Furthermore, those on death row or on mandatory life parole may not receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
  • There is no filing fee for applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Certificate of Rehabilitation?

  • The processing time for a Certificate of Rehabilitation application varies greatly by case. Once submitted, the district attorney may investigate the case. Also, the court may set a hearing on the petition.
  • To obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, the applicant must show upstanding moral character and obedience of all laws. Furthermore, California Penal Code § 4852.03 generally requires a seven-year waiting period after serving a sentence or completing probation. However, the exact length of the waiting period depends on the nature of the offense involved. For instance, convictions resulting in a life sentence require an additional five-year waiting period.
  • One of the major reasons why the processing time is so long is the number of records that the court examines. For example, the court reviews prison records, probation officer reports, trial records, police statements, witness testimony and transcripts. Likewise, the court can request witness testimony at a hearing before granting a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
  • In sum, the application for a Certificate of Rehabilitation is a serious legal process. Even if you do not have to appear in court, you should not submit this California clemency application without a lawyer. You can also work with a lawyer to reapply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation if the court denied your petition.

Expediting the Process for a Certificate of Rehabilitation

According to California Penal Code § 4852.22, the court may grant a Certificate of Rehabilitation before the end of the required waiting period. However, the applicant must show good cause for an expedited review. Additionally, the applicant should support their application with documentation of their need for an early review.

Contact Attorney Brandon Sample to Seek California Clemency

In short, the California clemency process requires knowledge of the system and a careful application. Most importantly, you do not want to jeopardize your chances of receiving a pardon, reprieve or commutation. Certainly, the potential to remove the stigma of a California criminal conviction is worth consulting with a trusted clemency lawyer, such as Attorney Brandon Sample.

To discuss the clemency options for you or a loved one, call Brandon Sample PLC today at 1-802-444-4357. We offer free initial consultations on your criminal case. Also, you can fill out our free consultation form to connect with our attorneys.

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