If you have a conviction that is on your record that you do not think is correct, you can look into receiving forgiveness for the offense. This is done through the clemency process and you will potentially be forgiven for your crime if the clemency or parole board or the governor of your state believes that you were accused and convicted unfairly for the crime. For federal crimes, there is a unique process that involves getting a pardon from the president.
If you have been involved in a trial that you do not feel was fairly handled and you think that you have been convicted unfairly, you can seek a pardon for the crime. This is almost always best handled with the help of an attorney and you will want to reach out to one as soon as possible after your conviction. You should not let time go to waste when you have been convicted of a crime that you did not commit. Evidence and witnesses can go missing or be corrupted over time.
If you want to learn more about the clemency application process, read on!
What is a Clemency Application?
A clemency application is done to help you to apply for a pardon for a criminal offense. This is an application that is submitted to the governor or state parole board for the pardon to be considered. The nature of the crime and whether it is a state crime impact the determination and the eventual outcome of these kinds of applications.
If you have committed a federal crime, you will have to petition the president for a pardon and cannot initiate the pardon at the state level. Each state might have its own unique clemency application process but you can look into the rules and regulations for the process or seek the help of an attorney to assist you with the application process.
The clemency application process can offer you many ways to get your right back and to clear your name and criminal record after an incorrect conviction has been handed down against you. Your lawyer will know which kind of clemency you can apply for and will help you to seek the best outcome for your clemency needs so that you can get your life back on track after your conviction. You might also be able to apply for a pardon before you have been convicted, depending on your state.
How Do You Apply for a Clemency?
There are often waiting periods that you must wait out before you can apply for clemency and they might vary from state to state. For federal clemency, you must wait five years after the time that your sentence is completed. In both cases, you will have to draft a letter that explains why you think that you are entitled to clemency. You will have to have a clean criminal record moving forward from the time of your conviction as well.
Your letter will need to explain why it is in the best public interest to be given clemency. You will also need three letters of recommendation of character letters from people that are not in your immediate family. At a state level, you will also need to fill out and get approval on a certificate of eligibility in order to be able to apply.
There are websites that might help you to handle the process of clearing your record, but you should always consider getting an attorney to help you with the process. You will have a much better experience with the clemency process with an expert on your side and you will be much more likely to succeed if you are working with a lawyer who is skilled in this process as well.
When Can I Get a Clemency?
When asking for clemency from the state, you might be able to seek one before your conviction. You can also seek one after if you believe that you were convicted unfairly of the crime in question. Each state or even each jurisdiction might have different laws regarding when clemency can be requested. Your lawyer should know what the laws are for your state so that they can help you to apply for clemency during the right phase of the legal process surrounding your accusation or conviction related to a crime.
What Can I Get From a Clemency?
If you are not eligible for a full pardon, sometimes your lawyer can seek a commutation of the sentence. This will reduce the probation, parole, or supervised release that you have been ordered to complete related to your crime. With this option, you will not be able to clear your record or alter the plea in your case, but you might be able to get back to your normal life more easily and after a shorter period of time if you seek the commutation of your sentence.
There is also another form of the clemency process that is called the restoration of civil rights. This process gives you back certain rights that you lost upon your conviction. You might be given back the right to vote, the right to hold a public office, the right to participate in government contracts or programs, the right to have a driver’s license after a motor vehicle offense, or the right to serve on a jury. Not all of these rights are given back to everyone who has sought a pardon, but you might be eligible for all of them depending on your crime.
Other rights that can be returned to you involve residency, immigration benefits, public benefits like housing, government secured loans, and the ability to get occupational licenses. You might also be allowed to possess a firearm again and you might get back the right to seek federal student financial aid.
How Long Does a Clemency Take?
The clemency process takes on average six months to a year. You might have to add some time to the process to consider the process of initiating the application and securing a lawyer. You might expect that a federal pardon will take much longer if the president and the government are busy with other matters or closed down for holidays.
You might also want to consider the waiting period before you can apply as part of your waiting process as well. This means that you might want to think about your clemency process as being a six-year commitment if the maximum time period has to be observed for your clemency application. Some states might offer clemency waiting periods that are less than the federal timeframe so you will need to check into this part of the process to be able to assess the time that will have to be involved.
Your lawyer will be able to advise you about the time that will be needed for your clemency so that you are not confused about the amount of time that it will take. You might not know what to expect from the clemency process without this guidance and each state can offer up a different waiting period as well as a different turnaround time for the clemency to be completed.
Does a Pardon Clear my Record?
A pardon does not clear your record. Only an expungement can do that. A pardon will return you some of the rights that you lost as a result of your conviction, but you will not end up with a clean record at the end of the process. You will usually get a public document or announcement of your pardon to help clear your name as well, which can be valuable.
If you want your record to be cleared, you will have to secure an expungement for your offense. An expungement does not remove all records of your conviction either, but the information is sealed and it will not show up in public searches or be accessible by employers and others seeking to find out this kind of information about you.
Both of these processes offer their own benefits, and you might not have access to seek either of them due to the nature of your crime. Pardons are historically easier to get than an expungement, and you should talk with your lawyer about which kind of process is better for your needs. Your attorney will know if you are eligible for either of these steps to clear your name and record and they will be able to help you apply for and navigate either process.
Should I Pursue an Expungement?
This is a very beneficial process to engage in if you will be prevented from getting a job due to your criminal record or if you feel that you will lose the licensure that you need to work in the future. This is not an erasure of the conviction, but for some employment types and all public searches, your conviction will no longer be visible.
This process can make it much easier to continue to work and take care of your needs and the needs of your family after you have been convicted. It can be very hard to find employment if you have a criminal record and you might want to look into an expungement instead of a pardon for this reason. That being said, the expungement process is not an easy one and you might not be able to seek one due to the circumstances of your crime.
Your lawyer will be able to help you to determine if the expungement is needed for your future goals. They should be able to tell you if you will be eligible for one as well. This is a worthwhile step for many people because the expungement will also change the status of the plea in your case back to not guilty and show that the case was dismissed.
You will be able to explain that the charge was in error and the conviction was reversed and you will no longer appear as a convicted person with a guilty plea. This can make it much easier to explain the charge appearing on your record but you will still likely have some issues with licensures and applications to certain jobs.
Whether the record is locked and the plea is changed, you will find that not every company will be willing to hire you with a former conviction of any kind present on your record. While this might not seem fair, it is the only option besides a pardon and you will have to choose between the two choices to find the solution that best fits your needs.
Work With a Skilled Lawyer to Streamline Your Clemency Application
You should always plan to work with a skilled lawyer to defend you and support your clemency case. This is a complicated process and it can be full of steps that you might not be aware of if you are trying to navigate it alone. Your attorney will be able to seek the best pardon or clemency deal for your needs and help you to get your life back on track after you have been falsely accused of a crime. This is one of the only ways to address a wrong that has happened due to a failure of the US court system, and you should seek it if you need to redress this kind of false conviction.
For those who have been convicted in error, it can feel like there is no hope. This is where your skilled attorney can make sure that you get the assistance that you need to help clear your name and clear your record. Being able to work, hold public office, get a driver’s license again and more are the results of an effective effort on the part of your attorney.
Always make sure that you secure an attorney as soon as you have been convicted of a crime to make certain that you get access to the support you need during the clemency process. At The Lopez Law Group, we can provide you with a free consultation about your case and let you know what to expect from the clemency application process.