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Higbee & Associates, a national law firm

California Pardon FAQ Frequently Asked Questions

This page was designed to help our clients better understand our California Pardon service. You will find answers to the questions we are most frequently asked. If your question is related to eligibility requirements please take the free online eligibility test.

Why or when should I apply for a pardon rather than expungement or other relief?

You should only apply for a pardon when you are not eligible for an expungement or Certificate of Rehabilitation.

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Is there a waiting period that must pass before I can apply for a pardon?

No, the law does not mandate any specific waiting period before you can apply for a pardon. However, the governor generally will only issue pardons to applicants who have been discharged from probation or parole for a period of at least ten (10) years, and who have led a law-abiding lifestyle during that time.

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Can I clear my federal conviction or conviction from another state?

No, if you have a federal conviction or a conviction from another state, you are not eligible to apply for a California pardon. The California governor only has authority to grant pardons to people who have been convicted of a crime in the State of California.

If you have out of state convictions, we may be able to help you clear those through a separate procedure. Please refer to our eligibility test for more information on cases outside of California.

If you have a federal case, you will need to obtain a pardon from the president. We do not handle federal cases, so you we are unable to assist you with this. For more information on obtaining a presidential pardon, please refer to the U.S. Department of Justice’s website: https://www.justice.gov/pardon/pardon-information-and-instructions, or contact an attorney who specializes in federal criminal cases.

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Do I need to expunge my cases first before applying for a pardon?

No, you are not required to expunge your record before applying for a pardon. In fact, most people apply for pardons because their record is not eligible to be expunged. Further, if a California case is expunged, there is no need to apply for a pardon on that case because the expungement changed the disposition of the case to "set aside and dismissed." Expungement relief is also much easier to obtain.

Even though you are not required to do so, if you have multiple convictions on your record that are eligible to be expunged, it could increase your chances of success in obtaining the pardon if you expunged the eligible cases before applying for a pardon.

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If I have more than one conviction on my record, do I need to get a pardon for each case?

No, the pardon applies to all California convictions on your criminal record.

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What is the pardon process?

When you sign up, we will create an online account for you to track all the progress of your case while we prepare it. After you provide us with as much case information as you can, we will complete case research and obtain all necessary documents needed to file the pardon application. We may need you to obtain a criminal history report, but we will send you instructions for obtaining this. After everything is gathered, we will file the application with the governor’s office and other required agencies. Once the application is filed, there is no way to track the progress, as the governor is not held to any specific time period to review the applications. If the governor’s office contacts you and needs more case information, we will gladly assist you in obtaining whatever documentation may be needed. However, once all the necessary documents are submitted, our services are complete.

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How long does the process take?

Unfortunately, there is no standardized time frame that the governor must follow after receiving a pardon application, so we are unable to provide an expected timeframe.

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Can the pardon process be done faster?

We will work on your case as quickly as possible. For a fee, we will assign more staff to work on your case in-house while we prepare your application for filing. However, once the application has been filed, there is no way to expedite the process. The governor is under no obligation to take any action once an application is submitted, which results in an unpredictable and unknown timeframe.

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What if I move before I have heard back from the governor’s office concerning my pardon application?

If you move to a new address before you have received a decision on your pardon application to governor’s office, you need to notify them of the address change in writing. After we have filed your application for a pardon, we will send you a sample letter that you can use to notify the governor of any address changes.

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Will there be a hearing and do I need to attend?

In almost all instances, no hearing is held. After the governor’s office receives the pardon application, it is typically sent to the Board of Parole Hearings for an investigation. During this investigation period, the Board may contact various government agencies that were involved in the case, like the District Attorney, the police or sheriff’s office who made the arrest, and any other person or agency with information that could be useful in completing the investigation. Based on their findings, the Board will then issue a recommendation to the governor as to whether the pardon should be granted.

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When does your representation of my pardon application end?

Representation by our firm terminates upon submission of the pardon application to the relevant board or Governor’s office. Any assistance after submission is not guaranteed and would require a new written agreement and an additional payment, including for support via email or phone. While we do provide instructions, it is your responsibility to keep the board or Governor’s office updated with your address and any other important changes or to hire an attorney to assist you with these updates.

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What happens after the pardon is granted?

After the governor has taken action on a pardon, the governor’s office will send out written notice to the applicant. Once the pardon has been granted, the governor’s office will notify the California Department of Justice and the FBI so that they can update their records to reflect the pardon. The governor’s office is also required to file a copy of the pardon with the Secretary of State, and to provide the California Legislature with a report of granted pardons and the reasons they were granted. While the granted pardon does become public record, certain personal information is removed prior to it being made available to the public.

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What if my request for pardon is denied?

Unfortunately, the governor is not required to provide any reason for the denial of a pardon application. Generally, the common reason for a denied pardon request is simply that the governor does not feel that the applicant has earned it. Unless the applicant has demonstrated that he has lived a productive and law-abiding life since the offense, the governor will not grant the pardon.

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What does a pardon do?

A pardon is an official issuance of forgiveness for a person who has been convicted of a crime. A pardon does not erase or seal the conviction, but will restore certain rights that were lost as a result of the conviction. While the pardon does not hide the criminal record, it does serve as a useful tool when trying to obtain employment, licenses, housing, etc. as having a pardon indicates that you have been legally forgiven for the crime(s) by the highest governmental authority in the state.

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Will a pardon expunge, seal, or otherwise erase my conviction(s)?

No. A pardon does not erase or expunge your conviction, but it will demonstrate that you have been absolved for any pardoned offenses by the state of California.

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Do I ever have to disclose my conviction if I receive a pardon?

Yes, even though you’ve received a pardon from the governor, you are still required to disclose your convictions on employment applications. The pardon does not seal or erase any of your convictions, so failure to disclose a conviction could affect your chances of employment. You can, however, indicate that you have received a pardon for the offense(s).

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Will my conviction still show on a background check?

Yes, your conviction will still show on your background check, even after you have been granted a pardon by the governor. The pardon does not seal, expunge, or set aside/reverse the conviction. However, after a pardon is granted, both the California Department of Justice and the FBI are notified so that they can update their records to show that a pardon was issued.

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How do government agencies know that I was granted a pardon?

When your pardon is granted, the governor’s office sends notice to you, and to all other required government agencies. The California Department of Justice will also add record of the granted pardon to your criminal history report.

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How long do records take to be updated?

On average, it can take between 30-60 days for agencies to receive notice of a granted pardon. Assuming that the agencies do not have a backlog, your record should be updated within that time period. If you are concerned that your record has not been updated, you can always request a copy of your criminal history report from the California Department of Justice to ensure that everything on your record is updated and accurate.

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Will a pardon relieve me of the requirement to register?

Alone, a pardon will not relieve you of your duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code § 290. However, if you’ve already received a Certificate of Rehabilitation but are still required to register, a full unconditional pardon will terminate your registration requirement. (PC § 290.5)

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Will a pardon allow me to apply to seal or expunge my conviction(s)?

No. Obtaining a pardon will not allow you to petition a court or other government body to seal or expunge your conviction. Rather a pardon will indicated to anyone reviewing your criminal history that your pardoned offenses should no longer be held against you because you've demonstrated that you are deserving of the rare relief of a pardon.

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Will a pardon help me with immigration?

A criminal record can impact your immigration case, but because every immigration case is unique, each case should be reviewed by a qualified immigration attorney to determine if a pardon would be beneficial. Our in-house immigration attorney can be reached at 714-617-8395 to answer any questions that you may have.

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Will a pardon restore my firearm rights?

Yes, as long as you have never been convicted of an offense that involved the use of a dangerous weapon, a pardon will restore your firearm rights in California (PC §4854).

If you live out-of-state, you should have an attorney review your case to determine if a California Pardon will restore your firearm rights in another state. For more information on this, please see our Firearm Rights Analysis service

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Can I vote after the pardon is granted?

As long as you are not currently incarcerated in a state or federal prison, serving a state prison felony sentence in a county jail or other institution, or currently on parole, you are eligible to vote. If you have been discharged from parole, your voting rights are restored, but you will need to re-register. For more information on voting information, please refer to: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm

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Can I serve on a jury after the pardon is granted?

Yes, after receiving a gubernatorial pardon, you will be eligible to serve on a jury. (PC §4853 and CCP §203(a)(5)).

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Can my pardoned case still be used against me for a future conviction?

Yes, if you are arrested and charged for a new crime, the court can consider your pardoned record as a previous conviction.

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Can I become a teacher, nurse, etc. after receiving a pardon?

Receiving a pardon will greatly increase your chances of receiving the requisite state license and obtaining employment in those fields. However, a pardon does not prevent some licensing agencies from still considering the conviction in determining whether a license should be granted to practice certain professions.

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Can I work in law enforcement after receiving a pardon?

After receiving a full and unconditional pardon from the governor, you are no longer barred from working as parole or probation officer in California, however you will still be prohibited from working as any other type of peace officer, like a police officer, sheriff, investigator, agent, etc.

It is important to note that although you are eligible to work as a state parole or county probation officer, the hiring agencies are under no obligation to hire you, and still have discretion to deny employment, despite the fact that you have received a pardon.

(Gov. Code § 1209(c))

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Does a pardon help if I want to join the military?

If you want to join the US military, your record will become a federal law matter, instead of a California state law. All branches of the military will want to know about your criminal history, even if you have received a pardon. Even though a pardon forgives you for that specific offense, there is still a risk of being discharged from the military if you do not tell them about the offense and they later find out about it. You should always disclose the conviction, but also mention that you have received a pardon from the Governor of California and so this offense should no longer be held against you.

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The first step towards a better life begins with finding out if you are eligible for California Pardon.

FREE Eligibility Test


Call us at Toll Free (877) 573-7273
Please take the free online eligibility test before calling.

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