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A criminal conviction does not have to be the end of the road. There are a number of avenues you can go down to alleviate the aftermath of a conviction. In some cases you may be able to have your records expunged or sealed. Another option is to receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation. This document does not seal your records, but it does show society and a potential employer that you have changed and are reformed from your crime. If you are granted a CR, it will work as an automatic application to the state’s Governor for a pardon. Essentially a pardon is the forgiveness or cancellation of a crime and its penalty. A federal crime can only be pardoned by the President. State offenses, however, can be pardoned by a Governor.
A pardon normally will only be given to individuals who have displayed exemplary behavior after their felony convictions. This type of forgiveness is not extended to everyone who meets all the qualifications—it is dependent entirely on the will of the Governor. The decision is based on whether or not the individual in question has proved to be a useful, productive, and law-abiding citizen. A pardon is not the same thing as an expungement. Your record will not be sealed as this decision is a public record in and of itself. Nor can you say that you have no criminal record.
However, you can say that you have been pardoned. If you are convicted of another felony, the pardon will not keep your prior conviction completely out of the discussion. It may still be considered. If your felony charge involved the use of a deadly weapon, your right to own a firearm will not be reinstated with a pardon. However, it will allow you to serve on a jury and to work as a county probation officer or a state parole agent. Some sex offenders also will be reprieved of their duty to register.
When you go to apply for a Governor’s pardon, you must first make sure that you meet all eligibility requirements. If you were convicted of a felony or a sex offense misdemeanor listed in §290 of the state’s Penal Code you will qualify if you have been discharged from custody and have completed your parole or probation. Also, you must not have been convicted of another charge since you were released and you must have lived in California for five years before you file the petition.
Once you are sure that you qualify, you can begin the application process by first petitioning for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. This petition can be turned into your local superior court. You will find this document at the court clerk’s office, the probation department or a public defender’s office. You must also be sure to notify your county’s district attorney and the DA of any other county in which the conviction was made. In this notice, you must include any or all crimes that you want to be covered. You will then have a hearing that will decide whether or not rehabilitation has been obtained. Once this is decided upon and the CR is granted, a copy will be sent to the Governor as an application for a pardon.
If you cannot apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, do not worry. There is another path you can take to receive this pardon. This is called a traditional pardon. This procedure is used by individuals who are not California residents but were convicted of a felony in the state. It is also used by individuals who committed a sex offense that disqualifies them from the CR. If you choose to take this path you must fill out the Application for Clemency. You can get ahold of this document by directly writing to the Governor’s Office; you can turn it into the same office. You must also send the DA a Notice of Intention to Apply for a Traditional Pardon.