Board of Parole Hearings
Pardons


Background

A California Governor’s pardon is an acknowledgement from the Governor that a person has been rehabilitated after a conviction. The Governor’s authority to grant a pardon is found in Section 8 of Article V of the Constitution of the State of California. In most cases, it relieves the recipient of many, but not all, of the penalties associated with a criminal conviction. (Pen. Code, § 4853.) For more information on the rights of citizenship that may be restored under a pardon, please visit: Quick Reference Guide for Restoration of Rights.

There are three primary methods by which an individual may obtain a pardon. A pardon may be obtained by first receiving a certificate of rehabilitation. Alternatively, if someone is ineligible to receive a certificate of rehabilitation, that person may pursue a direct pardon through the Governor’s Office. Finally, there are procedures in place for those currently incarcerated to receive a pardon.

Pardons with Certificates of Rehabilitationd

For most people, 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 lives. (Pen. Code, § 4852.01.) A certificate of rehabilitation restores some of the rights of citizenship that were forfeited as a result of a felony conviction. For more information on what rights a certificate of rehabilitation may restore, please visit: Quick Reference Guide for Restoration of Rights. Receiving a certificate of rehabilitation serves as an official document to demonstrate an offender’s rehabilitation, which may enhance the applicant’s employment options, and may be considered by state licensing boards. It does not erase or seal the applicant’s criminal record. Furthermore, it does not prevent the conviction from being considered for later convictions. (Pen. Code, § 4852.17.) There are several eligibility criteria that must be satisfied under Penal Code sections 4852.01, 4852.03, and 4852.05, in order to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation. For more information on the eligibility criteria and how to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation, please visit: Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon.

A certificate of rehabilitation is not an automatic pardon; it is an automatic application for a pardon. In the event that a certificate of rehabilitation is issued by a court, the certificate of rehabilitation shall be reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings within one year. (Pen. Code, § 4852.16, (b).) Thereafter, the board shall issue a recommendation as to whether the Governor should pardon that individual. (Pen. Code, § 4852.16, (b).)

Pardons without Certificates of Rehabilitation

Those who are ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation may pursue a pardon directly through the Governor’s Office. This procedure is used primarily by people who were convicted of a crime in California and now reside outside the state. The direct pardon procedure is also available to people who are not eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation because they have been convicted of specified sex offenses or misdemeanor offenses. (Pen. Code, § 4852.01, (d).)

The Governor is required to make the application for a pardon available on the Governor’s Office Internet website. (Pen. Code, §4802.5.) You may visit the Governor’s website at: https://www.gov.ca.gov/. For more information on how to apply for a direct pardon, please visit: How To Apply for a Pardon.

All applications for a direct pardon received by the Governor shall be promptly forwarded to the Board of Parole Hearings for an investigation and recommendation to the Governor. (Pen. Code, § 4802.5.) The board shall examine and consider all applications that are referred and all transcripts of judicial proceedings and all affidavits or other documents submitted in connection with the pardon. (Pen. Code, § 4812, (a).)

In the case of a person twice convicted of a felony, the application for pardon or commutation of sentence shall be made directly to the Governor, who shall transmit all papers and documents relied upon in support of and in opposition to the application to the board. (Pen. Code, § 4802.) Thereafter, and upon completion of investigation, the board shall transmit its written recommendation to the Governor. (Pen. Code, § 4813.) The Governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except with the approval of the Supreme Court. (Cal. Const., art.V, § 8.)

Commutations and Pardons for Inmates

Persons who are currently incarcerated may be eligible for a Governor’s pardon or commutation or sentence. The board may report to the Governor the names of any person imprisoned in state prison, who in its judgment ought to have a commutation of sentence or be pardoned based on good conduct, unusual term of sentence, or other causes including evidence of intimate partner battering. (Pen. Code, § 4801.) The board is expressly authorized to make recommendations to the Governor at any time regarding applications for pardon or commutation (Pen. Code, § 4812, (b).) Additionally, upon request of the Governor, the board is obligated to investigate and report on all applications for reprieves, pardons, and commutations of sentence. (Pen. Code, § 4812, (a).) Under these circumstances, the board is required to make recommendations to the Governor for each of these cases. (Pen. Code, § 4812, (a).)

In the case of a person twice convicted of a felony, the application for pardon or commutation of sentence shall be made directly to the Governor, who shall transmit all papers and documents relied upon in support of and in opposition to the application to the board. (Pen. Code, § 4802.) Thereafter, and upon completion of investigation, the board shall transmit its written recommendation upon such application to the Governor. (Pen. Code, § 4813.) The Governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except with the approval of the Supreme Court. (Cal. Const., art.V, § 8.)