Once you have been convicted of a felony in Georgia, you will likely be stuck with it on your record for life. This is the case whether you were convicted by a jury or pleaded guilty in front of a judge. One of the ways to truly clear your record is through filing a petition for retroactive first offender, which we discussed in a prior post. If you knew about first offender and chose not to exercise the right or you already had a felony conviction, you are not eligible for retroactive first offender.
Requesting a Pardon Through State Board of Pardons and Parole
Requesting a pardon is the second best option to retroactive first offender. While a pardon does not completely clear your record, it will show on your criminal history that you have been formally “pardoned” or forgiven by the State of Georgia. This can be very beneficial for seeking new employment or continuing education.
The application for requesting a pardon can be filled out with or without an attorney and is available through the State Board of Pardons and Parole’s website.
What is Required for a Pardon?
For all crimes other than sex offenses, there are four general conditions that must be met to petition for a pardon. First, you must have completed all sentences at least five years before applying. That means that you must have been off probation for five years. If you were given a straight confinement sentence, you must have been out of confinement for 5 years. Second, you must not have committed any new crimes in the last five years. Third, you cannot have any pending charges. And lastly, you must have paid off any fines or restitution that were required as part of your sentence.
For sex offenses, receiving a pardon is much more difficult. The wait period after your sentence is 10 years, and you must submit to several other conditions 90 days before filing. These conditions include a psychosexual evaluation, a polygraph examination, providing a SORB risk level, and more.
Meeting these conditions does not necessarily mean that you will receive a pardon, but it does mean that your petition will at least be considered. In your petition you will want to highlight two things to better your chances. First, any of your achievements, advancements in education or employment, participation in charitable organizations, or any other involvement in your church or community. Second, you need to explain the way in which the conviction is holding you back in life. For example, if it is barring you from progressing in employment or education.
Restoring Your Rights
If you are pardoned, this will automatically restore your civil and political rights such as the right to hold office, serve on a jury, and to be a notary public. Even without getting a pardon, you can petition to restore your rights. You can do this after only two years of having completed your sentence, lived a law abiding life, and paid off all your fines and restitution. Your right to vote is immediately restored after having completed your sentence. It is also important to note that a restoration of rights doesn’t automatically restore the right to possess a firearm. This must be inquired of separately, and is within the discretion of the board to grant.
If you have any questions about your criminal history, please contact our office today for a free consultation!