June 20, 2013 By Wallin & Klarich

Will I be able to apply for citizenship if the Governor’s Pardon is granted?

An individual who has a prior criminal record and has been convicted of a crime in the State of California may apply for a pardon from Governor Jerry Brown. Only the Governor is capable of granting the honor of a “gubernatorial pardon” to people who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following their conviction. Pardons are only granted if there is supplemental evidence proving that you have demonstrated such behavior. Historically, Governors have granted very few pardons; however, obtaining a pardon from Governor Jerry Brown is a distinct accomplishment based upon an active and law-abiding life following your conviction.


Applying for Naturalization/U.S. Citizenship

For Immigration purposes, the best way to accurately seek post-conviction relief is by hiring a criminal defense attorney instead of seeking a pardon on your own. A requirement for obtaining United States citizenship is establishing your “Good Moral Character.” Aggravated felonies and crimes involving moral turpitude can make you ineligible to become a U.S. citizen. When considering your application for naturalization, the Department of Homeland Security may request all of your criminal records, including pardoned crimes and expunged records, to determine whether you have “Good Moral Character.” Your attorney can help you portray your moral character in the most favorable manner. Thus, without proper legal representation, you may be denied U.S. citizenship.

It is important to note that applications will generally not be considered unless you have completed probation or parole, or have been discharged from a sentence for at least 10 years without additional criminal activity during that time period. No fee is required when applying for a pardon from the Governor.

What if I was convicted of a crime in another state, but I live in California?

You may not be granted a pardon from the Governor of California if your conviction occurred in another state. You must apply for a pardon in the state where you were convicted or for a federal pardon. Your attorney can help you obtain the proper pardon information for the county, state, or federal agency that you need to contact.

What is the application process?

The first step in applying for a pardon from the Governor of California is to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the Superior Court where you currently live. If you live outside of the State of California or are not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, then you must use a direct pardon application. Your attorney can explain which process would be best in your case.

1. Obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation

A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court order declaring that a person convicted of a crime is now rehabilitated. Generally speaking, if you are convicted of a felony in California and still live in California, you may apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation at the Superior Court in the county where you reside. However, you must meet the legal requirements set forth for demonstrating rehabilitation. There are special rules, however, to individuals who have been convicted of sexual offenses.

Your attorney can help you file a petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation with the court. We can help make sure that the entire process for requesting a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s pardon goes smoothly.

If the Superior Court issues a Certificate of Rehabilitation, the certificate is sent to the Governor’s Office where it automatically becomes an application for a pardon. However, the Governor’s receipt of a Certificate of Rehabilitation does not guarantee that a pardon will be granted.

2. Direct Pardon Application Procedure

If you are ineligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, your attorney can help you apply for a direct pardon with the Governor. Primarily, direct pardons are used by people who no longer live in the state of California or who are ineligible due to convictions of specified sex offenses or misdemeanor offenses.

You attorney will be able to help you complete the Application for Executive Clemency and send the application to the proper office. Having an attorney help you with this process will ensure that there are no mistakes in your application for a Governor’s pardon.

In addition, your attorney will send a Notice of Intent to Apply for Executive Clemency to the District Attorney of each county where you have been convicted. The District Attorney will acknowledge receipt of the Notice of Intent and forward the notice to the Governor’s Office. Your attorney will notify you of developments in every step of the process.

Process of Review

You should note that there is no requirement that the Governor of California take any action on a pardon application. After a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a completed application for direct pardon has been received by the Governor’s Office, the Office will typically forward the application to the Board of Parole Hearings (the Board). The Board may conduct a thorough background investigation, and then make a recommendation on whether or not a pardon should be granted. Persons the Board may contact during the investigative process include any District Attorney in the county where you were convicted, investigating law enforcement agencies, and any other persons with relevant information about you.

If you have been convicted of more than one felony, the Supreme Court of California must recommend granting the pardon before the Governor may do so. If the Governor takes action on a pardon application, you will be notified via mail. You should notify the Governor’s Office in writing of any changes to your mailing address during the review process.

Effect of a Pardon

Being granted a pardon does not seal your criminal record or expunge a record of conviction, and the pardon itself is public record. A Governor’s pardon does not automatically ensure that you will be granted U.S. citizenship. What a Governor’s pardon can do is demonstrate that you have been rehabilitated and are ready to become a productive member of society. This is important because prospective employers and immigration agents who conduct a background check on you will see the Governor’s pardon on your record as a positive sign that you have completed your rehabilitation.

The California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are notified in order to update their records on you. The pardon is then filed with the Secretary of State, reported to the Legislature, and becomes public record. It is important to note that getting a crime erased through expungement or a pardon does not eliminate the immigration consequences arising from those expunged crimes. Your criminal record will be scrutinized during the immigration process, but the Governor’s pardon can help relieve you overcome this scrutiny.

This guest post was written by Graham Post and provided by JCS Immigration and Visa Law Office, Immigration Attorneys in Los Angeles, California.

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