How To Apply For A Governer’s Pardon In California

This guide explains the process of applying for a pardon.

If you are interested in receiving a governors pardon you must apply for an expungement first if you are eligible.

Below I explain all the details of a Governors Pardon and all the steps needed to obtain one.

What Is A Governors Pardon?

A California governor’s pardon is an opportunity for an individual convicted of a felony to show that they have been rehabilitated of the crime they were convicted of committing.

A pardon can restore many of your personal and civil rights that were taken away from you once you were convicted.

How Can I Prove That I Was Rehabilitated?

You can prove that you have been rehabilitated by showing that you have led an honest and upright life and have exhibited good moral character since you were released from prison.

What Are The Benefits of a Governors Pardon In California?

A pardon, especially one with a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR), can be extremely helpful in situations where you are required to disclose a prior conviction since you can include the caveat that you received a pardon with the COR.

This advises an employer, school, or financial institution, or anyone else, that your past conduct is not a reflection of your current disposition or character and that you have been recognized as a law-abiding and productive citizen for many years.

Does A Governors Pardon Restore My Rights?

If granted, the following rights will be restored to you:

  • Your 2nd Amendment right to own and possess firearms (unless convicted of a felony involving use of a dangerous weapon)1.
  • Right to serve on a California civil or criminal jury2
  • Relieved from lifetime obligation to register as a sex offender3.
  • Right to apply for a state professional license without automatic disqualification4
  • Ability to serve as a county probation officer or state parole officer5

What Are The Limitations of a Pardon?

A governor’s pardon does not restore all your rights and limitations include the following:

  • You may not serve as a peace officer
  • If convicted of an offense after the pardon was granted, your prior conviction can be used against you to impeach your credibility and enhance any sentence imposed6.
  • If you are an undocumented immigrant or not a U.S. citizen, you are not immune from deportation. If your crime was one of moral turpitude (forgery, money laundering, sexual assault, robbery, etc.), you are not eligible for a green card or permanent residency
  • If your conviction involved use of a dangerous weapon, your right to own or possess firearms will not be restored
  • Your criminal records are not sealed or destroyed and your conviction must be disclosed if applying for citizenship or public employment

Who Decides If You Receive A Pardon?

A governor’s pardon is not a right or an entitlement and the decision as to whether you are granted one is entirely within the discretion of the current California governor, unless you have multiple felony convictions7.

What If You Have Multiple Felony Convictions?

Should you have multiple felony convictions, the California Supreme Court is required to review your application and recommend that you be pardoned for you to receive a pardon8.

What Are The Steps In Applying For A Pardon?

You can apply for a pardon under two distinct methods.

  1. Applying for and receiving a Certificate of Rehabilitation which automatically makes you eligible to apply for a pardon, or
  2. Seeking a direct pardon by filing an Application for Executive Clemency.

What Is A COR (Certificate of Rehab)?

A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court order that declares you rehabilitated.

It is useful if you are applying for housing benefits, employment, and professional licensing.

When Should You Apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation First?

You can apply for a COR if you were convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor for which you were not required to register as a sex offender.

You cannot apply unless you first meet the following requirements:


Resided in California for 5 continuous years


At least 7-years have passed since you were released from jail or prison (some offenses are 10-years).


You have not been incarcerated since your conviction was dismissed or expunged


Are not currently on probation for any other felony


Present a convincing argument that you are rehabilitated and deserving restoration of civil and political rights

When Should You Apply For A Direct Pardon?

You cannot apply for a certificate of rehabilitation first under the following circumstances and must use the direct pardon process.


No longer reside in California


Were convicted of any of the following offenses:

  • Sodomy with a minor9
  • Lewd acts with a minor under the age of 1410
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child11
  • Oral copulation with a minor12
  • Forcible acts of penetration of a minor13
  • A misdemeanor that does not require registration as a sex offender14
  • Serving mandatory life parole
  • Sentenced to death

How Can I Request A Direct Pardon Application?

You can request an application by writing to the following address:

Governor’s Office State Capitol
Attention: Legal Affairs
Sacramento, CA 95814

What Should Be Included In A Governors Pardon Application?

Describe all activities or programs you participated in that contributed to your rehabilitation while in prison, on parole or after all conditions of parole or probation were met.

These conditions include

  • Completing drug and alcohol counseling,
  • Volunteer efforts,
  • Maintaining steady employment,
  • Providing financial and emotional support for family members,
  • Degrees or educational certificates that you earned,
  • A business that you started, and
  • Participation in church or other community activities.

The Application Must Also Include:

  • Personal identifying information
  • List of all criminal convictions regardless of state
  • Description of the circumstances of the crime for which you are seeking a pardon
  • Reason for requesting a pardon
  • Reasons for granting you a pardon

Where Should You Send Your Application?

A certificate of rehabilitation application is sent to the California Superior Court where your conviction was entered.

Otherwise, you can apply directly for a pardon by submitting a Notice of Intent to Apply for Executive Clemency to the District Attorney in each county where you were convicted of a felony.

Once notice is given, submit the Application for Executive Clemency to the Office of the California Governor.

Is There A Fee For Application In California?

No. There is no state fee to apply for a pardon in California.

Is There Going To Be An Investigation Of Me If I Apply For A Pardon?

Yes. An investigation is usually conducted when someone applies for a pardon.

This investigation is conducted to find out information about

  • The person’s criminal history,
  • The person’s rehabilitation efforts while they were incarcerated and after they were released,
  • The person’s disciplinary record while they were in prison and on probation, and the reasons why the person is applying for a pardon.

How Can I Know What My Chances Are Of Being Granted A Pardon?

A person’s chances of being granted a pardon depend on the facts of their case. Usually, if a person committed a crime many years ago, the crime was a less serious offense and the person has a very compelling life story, they will have a greater chance of being granted a pardon in California.

How Aizman Law Firm Can Help

Persons who have served time in prison and who have obeyed the laws in California during a rehabilitation period may apply for a pardon to have their civil rights restored

At the Aizman Law Firm, our experienced criminal defense attorneys have helped clients receive pardons in California.

If you need to speak to an attorney about your case or about applying for a pardon, please call our office at (818) 351-9555.

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 

  1. Penal Code § 4854 []
  2. Cal. Civ. Code § 203 []
  3. Penal Code § 290.5 []
  4. BPC § 480 []
  5. Cal. Gov.Code § 1029 []
  6. Evid. Code § 788; People v. Castro (1985) 38 Cal.3d 301-306-319 []
  7. People v. Ansell (2001) 25 Cal.4th 868,891; California Constitution, Art. V, § 8 []
  8. Penal Code § 4852 []
  9. Penal Code § 286(c). []
  10. Penal Code § 288 []
  11. Penal Code § 288.5. []
  12. Penal Code § 288(a). []
  13. Penal Code § 289. []
  14. Penal Code § 261.5 []

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