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Understanding Clemency


The ultimate goal of one's criminal defense efforts in Fullerton is to secure the optimal outcome from their case. In many situations, that may be a full acquittal. In others, however, it may mean reduced criminal penalties. Yet it is important to remember that such an outcome may not result from one's initial prosecution. Indeed, their fight may continue even after having been convicted. In that event, their goal becomes securing a form of post-conviction relief. One of the ideal forms of such relief is clemency. 

The argument made for clemency is that one has met the standard of accountability or rehabilitation and that any further punitive action would be unjust. Typically clemency comes in the form of either a pardon or sentence commutation. A pardon is essentially forgiveness of any criminal activity and an order to cease any further punishments from being meted out. A sentence commutation is an order to reduce criminal sentence (either to a shorter prison term or a reduced fine). Clemency petitions are reviewed by the state's parole board and then submitted (with a recommendation) to the Governor's Office, from which a final decision will be issued. Per the California Board of Parole Hearings, clemency requests made by those with two or more felony convictions must also be approved by the State Supreme Court. 

One might wonder why the state would consider clemency requests after having secured a conviction. The website for the California Governor's Office offers the following reasons: 

  • To increase the safety of the state's inmate population
  • To decrease risks faced by those working in the state's correctional facilities
  • To remove counterproductive barriers to inmates looking to re-enter society 
  • To address unjust results from the legal system

Clemency is often just the first step towards having a criminal record expunged

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