State Law And Federal Law Pardons
A pardon is an order signed by the executive of a government that forgives an individual for a particular crime. Once a pardon is granted, although the conviction remains a matter of public record, the individual is not subject to any more penalties for the crime committed and is also not subject to any restrictions that may be placed upon free citizens who have previously been convicted of a crime. Because each state has its own constitution and set of laws, there are some differences between state law and federal law pardons.
Federal Law Pardons
Federal law pardons can only be granted by the President of the United States. Typically, the President will receive a series of petitions for pardons and will decide whether he wants to sign to grant the pardon or whether he will deny the petition. A flurry of pardons are often signed in a President's last few days of office, as, although his reasons for granting pardons cannot be questioned, he may be subject to public scrutiny for many of his choices, which are often politically motivated. If you have committed a federal crime and wish to apply for a federal pardon, you must wait until five years after you have served your time, and must then fill out an application which includes three letters of recommendation from people who know you well who are not family members, a copy of your presumably clear criminal record since the conviction in question, and other supplementary materials. There is no set timeline during which you can expect your pardon to be reviewed.
State Law Pardons
State law pardons are typically granted by the governor of the state in question, although in some cases, a governing body like a parole board may hear pardon requests instead of or in conjunction with the governor. Those applying for pardons for a state crime will undergo a similar process as those applying for a federal pardon, although there will be some slight variations from state-to-state.
Pardons vs. Other Types of Relief
What's important to know about pardons is that even if your pardon is granted, and most are not, it doesn't make your conviction go away. It simply puts it on the public record that you have been forgiven of the crime and should not be subject to any further penalties or restrictions due to having committed the crime. If you are actually looking to remove your criminal record, you will need an expungement, or at least to have your record sealed. When your record is sealed, you can act as if it never happened, and entities inquiring will be told there is no record of your crime. However, a court order can unseal your record. Expunging of criminal records means that the record is completely removed and it is as if the crime never happened. You can legally answer no on any form that requires disclosing a prior criminal conviction and there is no record left to unseal.
Applying for Relief
Whatever type of conviction relief you think you may be entitled to, your first step should be to head to ClearUpMyRecord.com, set up an account and take the free eligibility test. This will tell you almost instantly and for free whether you are legally able to obtain relief, although this is not a legal site and does not dispense legal advice. Once you know if you can get clemency or clear your record, ClearUpMyRecord can show you how, with forms instantly posted to your account, instructions on how to fill out the application and directions on where to send your application. Whether it's a pardon, expungement, or some other form of criminal record relief, you owe it to yourself to remove this mark on your past and open up opportunities for a bright future.
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