Clemency or Pardon: A True Second Chance

Clemency or Pardon

Are you tired of that one mistake still haunting you? You keep trying to move ahead but you’re told that you’re not good enough because of something you did long ago? Well, there’s good news. You may be eligible for clemency or pardon in the State of Florida. Our clemency and pardon attorneys are passionate about helping people get a fresh start in life.

Even if you’ve turned your life around, a felony conviction can stain your reputation and impact your career and family life. Perhaps you want to obtain a professional license, get back into school, move up in your career, or carry a firearm for personal or business protection, but your felony conviction is holding you back.

Although you’ve been told that you can’t expunge or seal your record, there is still hope. You may be eligible for a second chance after your felony conviction in the form of clemency (also called a pardon). Being absolved of your crime by the Governor is one of the best ways to obtain a second chance after being convicted of a felony.

Applying for clemency or pardon can be a complex process, but our attorneys are here to help. The following guide provides a breakdown of the clemency process and what you can expect.

What Documents are Necessary for Clemency?

In applying for clemency, you’ll want to prepare the strongest application possible. The following steps provide a guide for obtaining the documents you may need.

Step One – Criminal History 

You’ll need to obtain a complete and thorough search of your criminal history, including information from state and national background checks. A fingerprint background check such as an FDLE or FBI (NCIC) background check can identify state and federal charges and case dispositions. Other factors relevant to your criminal history include:

  • Criminal convictions
  • Charges that were dropped
  • Withholds of adjudication. 

Your criminal history includes any cases where you:

  • Got arrested
  • Given a criminal citation
  • Summons
  • Notice to appear

You should obtain documentation for any and all charges including:

  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Criminal traffic
  • and municipal ordinance violations, including charges that were dismissed, dropped, sealed, or expunged.

Additionally, it may be important to disclose whether there was a victim, and if the victim suffered any injury or property damage. You will also need to obtain relevant documentation if you were registered as a sex offender or predator. Regarding any sentences, you need to be able to show whether you went to jail or prison or placed on probation. If you were placed on probation, did you complete it or did you violate any of the terms, and why?

Step Two – Injunctions

Although injunctions are not criminal, you should obtain information about any injunction or restraining order issued against you. You should obtain those documents whether the restraining order or domestic violence injunction was granted or dismissed.

Step Three – Education

You should obtain copies of any degrees, licenses, and certificates for any high school, college, graduate school, trade school or vocational school. If you received any awards, commendations, or special recognitions, such as honors, you should get a copy of that documentation, including any pictures of you receiving such awards.

Step Four – Jobs/Careers

Compile a list of your job or work history, including your employers and the positions you held, similar to a resume or LinkedIn profile. You should try to list your salaries, promotions, and any special recognitions you have received.

Step Five – Driving Record

You should obtain a copy of your driving record which will disclose any criminal traffic citations, suspensions, or tickets you may have incurred.

Step Six – Affidavits of Good Moral Character

Character letters may be very important to show the Board of Clemency that you have good character despite your past mistakes. You can obtain character reference letters from:

  • Law enforcement
  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Religious leaders
  • Community leaders
  • Politicians
  • Probation officers
  • Prison guards
  • Anyone whom you believe has a great reputation and can support your clemency petition.

Step Seven – Community Service

If you have performed any community service hours, whether part of your sentence or voluntary, try to obtain a letter from the head of that charity or agency explaining how you have helped the community or charity and how many hours you’ve completed.

Step Eight – Coaching and Youth Sports

If you’ve ever coached youth sports such as gymnastics, football, or basketball, you can obtain letters from the children’s parents, the head of the organization, or the head coach or any other coach.

Step Nine – Child Support

Whether you’re delinquent (or have previously been delinquent) or not, you should provide information about child support. If you’re current with your child support obligations, it may be important to include that in the application.

Step Ten – Bankruptcy and Civil Judgments

If you’ve filed for bankruptcy for business or your personal life, it will be important for you to gather that information. If the bankruptcy petition has been discharged, it’s important to get proof. Have you ever sued anyone? Have you gotten any judgment or has any judgment been entered against you? The answers to these questions could be factors that may weigh in your favor or weigh against you.

Step Eleven – Family

It may be important to identify your spouse, prior marriages, kids, and your relationship with your family in general. If you can obtain letters of support from your family, that would be important as well.

Step Twelve – Baker Act and Mental Health History

If you’ve undergone mental health counseling or treatment or have been subject to the Baker Act, you may want to obtain documentation. If you’re in counseling and are making progress, you can obtain a letter from your doctor or therapist detailing your progress.

Step Thirteen – Social Media

Scan through all of your social media accounts for memories, posts, or mentions that cast you in a favorable light.

Step Fourteen – Alcohol and Drug Addiction

If you are or have ever been addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other substances, it may be important to obtain proof of overcoming that addiction, such as letters or certificates of completion of counseling programs.

Step Fifteen – Victims

If the victim of any crime has forgiven you, it could be important to obtain a favorable position from the victim in support of your clemency petition. You should anticipate what the victim’s reaction will be before you file the petition because the victim has a right to voice their opinion. Under Marsy’s Law, the victim’s input may very well be a critical factor in the granting or denial of your clemency application.

Step Sixteen – Publicly Reported Media

Have there been any stories about you on TV or on any other public platform? If there have been any publicly reported stories or articles in the media including print, broadcast, internet, digital media, social media, or any other outlet or platform, you should procure that information.

What are the Benefits of Clemency?

If you’re granted a pardon or executive clemency, your criminal record is not sealed or expunged. However, clemency can still provide the following benefits:

(1) Peace of mind and restored reputation

(2) The ability to apply for professional licenses or obtain degrees, such as a law degree (J.D.) or medical degree (M.D.)

(3) Restoration of immigration status under Florida Law

(4) The ability to apply for contractor, real estate and broker licenses

(5) The ability to obtain a better career or job promotions

(6) The ability to apply for government contract licenses

(7) The ability to apply for security clearances

(8) Removing the “Convicted Felon” target off your back

(9) The ability to apply for specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms

(10) Family, business, and personal benefits

Who Reviews a Clemency Application and Petition?

The Florida Commission on Offender Review (FCOR) has a staff that investigates and researches clemency applications. The staff analyzes your application and becomes the basis of a report that will be reviewed by the Commission. 

The FCOR may then make recommendations to the Board of Executive Clemency, including the Governor of Florida.

What Factors are Reviewed During a Clemency Application?

There are a number of factors that the Board will review when considering whether to grant or deny a clemency application. The Board will review the applicant’s criminal history, including traffic offenses, looking at the nature of the crimes and offenses allegedly committed. 

The Board will determine whether the applicant has a history of mental instability, or drug or substance addiction or abuse. Ultimately, the Board will want to know if the applicant poses a risk to the health and welfare of our society.

Additionally, the Board will want to know if the applicant has contributed to society in a positive and meaningful way. Is he or she a role model for others? Have letters been submitted in support of or in opposition to the granting of clemency? The Board will review whether the applicant is in otherwise good standing in the community and whether the applicant has ties to the community. Employment history, and whether the applicant has been a good employee, is an important factor. Has the individual started a business? Did the applicant pursue higher education, obtaining a college or technical degree? Has the applicant helped others, such as a family member, friend, or member of their religious or charitable organization to have a better life? Will a grant of clemency give the individual an opportunity to get a better career or grow their existing business?

The Board will review family ties as well. Does the applicant have a strong family relationship? Have there been instances or accusations of domestic violence? Has the applicant been delinquent in outstanding child support payments?

In reviewing a clemency application, the Board will also determine whether the applicant has shown remorse or contrition to the victim or to the public for the offense. Has the offender ever apologized to the victim? Has the offender ever made restitution to the victim?  

The executive clemency board is not limited to the above factors. Therefore, you should be aware that the board may also look at whether the applicant has committed any new crimes after the felony.

What Does the Clemency Process Look Like?

First, an application is filed with the Office of the Executive Clemency. They will determine if the application was filed in a timely manner based on a review of the completion of the sentence and probation. A full pardon requires that the applicant wait at least ten (10) years from the completion of the sentence before applying. Additionally, the clemency staff will review the application to see whether the documents are certified and are compliant with the rules and whether the application is legally sufficient.

The application is then forwarded to the investigative phase so that field examiners can begin an investigation. If the application fails to meet the rules of executive clemency, the application is denied. The application may be returned to the petitioner without further consideration. In some cases, the Office of Executive Clemency will advise the applicant why the applicant was disqualified. If the clemency application is deemed eligible, the Office of Executive Clemency will make efforts to advise the prosecutor and victims of any of the record offenses.

Under Marsy’s Law, the victim has a right to voice his or her opinion concerning the granting or denial of the clemency petition. Once the Florida Commission on Offender Review receives the eligible application, the clemency investigator may make requests for more information and documentation from the applicant. The person seeking clemency has a duty to be honest and forthright and fully answer all inquiries made by the investigator. Failure to respond honestly or failure to provide requested documents can result in denial of your clemency petition.

The application and report are then forwarded to the Board of Clemency. The Board can deny or grant the clemency with or without a hearing, depending on the applicable clemency rules. If granted, the Board will issue a certificate of restoration of civil rights. If there is a hearing, the State and the Petitioner are each given fifteen (15) minutes to argue either in favor of or against the granting of the clemency. The applicant may bring in legal counsel to make arguments on the Petitioner’s behalf. At the hearing, the applicant may be questioned and expected to testify. Anyone opposing the grant of clemency, such as victims or law enforcement, may also be present to testify at the hearing.

Finding a Light at the End of the Tunnel

For too long you’ve suffered from having the stain of a criminal conviction on your record. Regardless of how long it’s been since you completed your sentence, a conviction can continue to haunt you. You may feel that you’re at the end of your rope due to a label that’s affecting you, your family, your reputation, or even where you can live or work. But there is hope, and The Umansky Law Firm can be there with you at every step of the process of your clemency application to apply for a second chance in life.

We understand that trials are unpredictable, and you might not have gotten the disposition you had hoped for. Maybe at the time of your trial, you could not afford the best defense possible, or perhaps you might have exhausted every legal remedy, including appeals without any success. At The Umansky Law Firm, we have a team of lawyers, including Board Certified and Death Penalty Certified criminal defense attorneys that can help you fight for a second chance.

When applying for Clemency, your first Petition might be your only chance. If the request is denied, you have no right to appeal, and there is no legal remedy after a denial since Clemency is not a legal right, but an act of compassion. An experienced attorney at The Umansky Law Firm can help you prepare and collect all the evidence and documents required to help to build the strongest possible case for mercy in the Application for Clemency to the Office of Executive Clemency.

Remember that ultimately, Clemency is an act of mercy by the Florida Governor and the Clemency Board, and not a right that you’re entitled to. Make your petition stand out from the rest by hiring an experienced and reputable attorney to help you get that second chance. Call The Umansky Law Firm today at (407) 228-3838 for a free consultation and review of your eligibility to obtain a clemency or pardon.