How to Apply for Clemency - Everything You Need to Know
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How to Apply for Clemency

How to apply for clemency

Felons know how challenging it can be as they move forward in life with a felony on their record.

It seems like the conviction penalties follow them no matter what they do and affects all aspects of their life from finding a job, to obtaining housing, continuing their education, or obtaining a loan.

For felons who believe they deserve forgiveness for the offense, clemency may offer hope.

This blog post will cover the process of applying for clemency.

  • What is Clemency?
  • Federal vs. State Clemency
  • Application Process
  • Supporting the Felon after the Clemency Decision

What is Clemency?

Clemency is a term for reducing the penalty for a particular crime without actually clearing a felony record.

Felons who have a criminal conviction for which they believe the sentence was too harsh or not deserved given the circumstances can apply for clemency.

Felons who feel they have paid their debt to society and are entitled to having any further possible punishments for their crime withdrawn may wish to consider petitioning the government for clemency.

Clemency is a form of legal forgiveness for a crime.  It may be in the form of a pardon, which is forgiveness of a sentence, commutation, which is the reduction of a sentence, or a reprieve, which is the temporary postponement of a sentence.

A pardon is a form of clemency, but clemency does not always mean a pardon.  While a pardon does not erase the conviction, it goes on the criminal record that they have been legally forgiven for the crime and the restrictions imposed on a felon no longer apply.

This will allow them to have their right to vote and hold public office restored.   They will also be allowed to own a firearm.

Nevertheless, their felony conviction will still be part of the public record and able to be viewed.  Their felony conviction must still be reported in any situation inquiring about prior criminal history.

Federal vs. State Clemency

Clemency may be a federal or a state pardon depending on whether it is a federal or state offense.

For a federal pardon, a petition will go to the President of the United States.  For a state crime, the application will go to the governor, state parole board, or clemency board, depending on the state.

State clemency applications will differ according to the state and will be slightly different from a federal clemency application.

In order to obtain a federal pardon, felons must wait five years after completion of their sentence.  Then they may contact the federal government regarding clemency.

The length of the waiting period for a state felony will depend on the state.

Application Process

Felons must state the reason for seeking clemency and how the pardon will help them accomplish that.

They will need to provide evidence why it would be in the public’s best interest as well as their own to receive clemency.

They may need documentation, such as a letter from appropriate government or licensing authorities.  They must have a clean criminal record after the time of the initial conviction.

Their personal background is extremely important.  The nature, seriousness, and length of time since their conviction along with their overall criminal record will be considered.

Any hardship they may be suffering as a result of their conviction is also important.  Involvement in community service or charitable activities will make a difference.

Felons will need to submit three letters of recommendations from character witnesses who are not part of their immediate family.

Part of the review will be contacting the victim and original jurisdiction where they were convicted.

Following the review, the application will be submitted to the President or governor with a recommendation.  The appropriate government official will then make a decision on the request for clemency.

Felons must list any bankruptcies, tax or other financial obligations.  They must include any civil lawsuit of which they are a part.

Additionally, they must include every violation, including traffic offenses, which resulted in an arrest or conviction.

Before submitting any such application, it will be important to consult with an attorney for legal advice and assistance with the clemency application process.

Clemency does not establish innocence.  When the application is reviewed, acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and rehabilitation for the crime will be considered.

Even though felons may be pardoned, the original offense can still be used against them if they commit another crime, and they will still be considered a repeat offender.

If felons are successful in achieving a pardon, some things in their life will change.

While the conviction will remain on their record, they will no longer be subject to the penalties that typically go along with a felony record.

They will once again be able to own a firearm, vote, and hold public office.  Obtaining a loan or mortgage may be easier also.  If their clemency application is denied, those penalties will remain with them.

Supporting the Felon after the Clemency Decision

For families of felons who have achieved clemency, reinforce their efforts and the difficulty they faced in applying for and persisting with the lengthy clemency process.

If they can work hard enough to accomplish that, they can achieve so much more.

For families of felons who have been turned down for clemency, continue to be there and be supportive.  Do not allow your loved one to get discouraged or give up.

They have lived with their criminal record and the consequences this long, and they can continue their quest for a better life even without clemency.

Continue to encourage them to live life the right way and not return to their criminal ways.

So what do you think about this blog post about how to apply for clemency?  Have you or someone you know been through this process?  What was that like and were they successful?   Please tell us in the comments below.

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