Why is it Important to seek a Pardon?
Officially, a pardon is an executive recognition that someone has turned their life around and become a productive citizen. Functionally, a pardon is equivalent to the State of Oklahoma forgiving you for a crime committed and for which a court convicted you.
Like the U.S. President, a sitting Oklahoma Governor can pardon Oklahoma citizens for past crimes and return their full citizenship rights. Pardons are a vitally important opportunity for many Americans–more than 1 in 30 Americans are incarcerated or under post-conviction supervision at any given time–but even more critical for Oklahomans, who are incarcerated at nearly twice the national average, according to the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Justice Statistics.
If you have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime, you may be eligible for a pardon.
Unlike an expungement, being granted a pardon does not remove an offense from your official record. However, it can be the first step in doing so. As mentioned, pardons are more like official forgiveness from the State of Oklahoma. Pardons go far beyond being a state-sanctioned “forgiveness,” however, and come with many practical benefits.
Whether you are looking to restore your right to own and possess a firearm, to serve on a jury, to obtain a state liquor license, to hold public office, or to improve your chances on the job market, a pardon can make it possible. And those successful in obtaining a pardon are authorized to motion for an expungement of their record under Title 22, Section 18, of the Oklahoma Statutes.
A governor’s pardon can help you move forward and put a difficult part of your life behind you.
How to Get a Pardon in Oklahoma
Truthfully, being granted a pardon by the Governor can be a complex process. Applicants must meet the necessary conditions and complete a lengthy application process. To be eligible for a pardon, applicants must:
- Be seeking a pardon from a State of Oklahoma conviction. Convictions incurred out of the State of Oklahoma or by a Federal Court in Oklahoma would require a different process.
- Complete their sentence and its underlying terms, including paying restitution and associated court fees.
- Not be in jail or prison at the time of application.
- They do not have any pending criminal charges against them.
- Not have applied for a pardon in the past year.
Those who meet the criteria to apply for a pardon must comply with the demanding application process. The application is lengthy and seeks precise information from applicants. Some of the more critical points sought in the application include the following:
- Proof of employment and income.
- Proof of residence.
- A certified copy, with an original seal, of the judgment(s) and sentence(s) you seek to have pardoned.
- A certified statement from the court clerk attesting that you paid all restitution, fees, fines, and costs in full.
- A current credit report.
- A full accounting of your criminal history, including charges or arrests that did not lead to a conviction and those from out of state.
- A full accounting of civil matters or disputes you have been a party to, including bankruptcy filings and unpaid tax obligations.
However, being “qualified” to apply for a pardon and completing the application often isn’t enough to actually be granted a pardon. The Oklahoma Probation and Parole Board will seek to determine whether an applicant is “worthy” of a pardon. Claiming innocence will not be helpful in the pardon process. The Board will want an indication that the applicant has accepted responsibility and atoned for their actions. Often, declarations from friends, family, and coworkers attesting to your good moral character can also be a significant addition to your pardon application.
Once the application is completed and filed with the Board, an investigation into the applicant begins; this can take up to a year to complete. The investigation aims to verify all of the information submitted in the application. Following the investigation, the Board will set your application for a hearing. After the conclusion of the hearing, the Board forwards the matter to the Governor’s office for a decision. The Governor has up to three months to render a decision.
Why do I need Representation to Receive a Pardon?
Since you can only apply for a pardon once a year, you want the application to be complete and error-free so you get it right the first time. Because these applications are so technical, having an attorney handle them on your behalf is always advisable. Your Oklahoma City pardon attorney can also help draft the declaration your loved ones wish to submit on your behalf to ensure they have the most helpful language possible.
One of the most significant advantages of having an Oklahoma City pardon attorney on your side will be their assistance at the Board hearing. The time permitted for testimony at a hearing is severely limited. It is vitally important to use that time efficiently and effectively. Because of this, it is best to have an Oklahoma City pardon attorney address the Board on your behalf.
The Board rejects some pardon applications because they feel the applicant hasn’t shown they are ready for a pardon. It is also sad that the Board rejects many applications because of mistakes in the substance of an application or because an applicant failed to submit the required documents. Rejection can be devastating, forcing applicants to wait another year before applying. An Oklahoma City pardon attorney can help you through each step of this important process and ensure your best chance at success.
Contact an Oklahoma City pardon attorney at 918-932-2833 today to learn if the pardon process is proper for you and what you must do to be successful.