Being granted a Pardon goes a long way in being able to secure a good job; if the State is willing to forgive someone for their past transgressions, most other people are as well.
Pardons can only be granted by the Governor, but the initial request must be made to and go through the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
What Is A Pardon?
A Pardon is an official sign of forgiveness from the State that restores an applicant’s civil rights.
A Pardon Can Give You Some of Your Rights Back
The most significant rights that can be regained from a pardon in Oklahoma are the right to own a firearm and the right to vote.
Other important benefits of a Pardon include the rights to:
- run for office
- receive professional licensure
- receive government assistance
- be eligible/considered for employment, housing, volunteering and education
A Pardon Does NOT Erase Your Criminal Record
Under Oklahoma law, a Pardon by itself will not clear or erase a person’s Oklahoma criminal records. It does not prevent a prior criminal record from showing up on an OSBI offender lookup or background check with the OSCN or the ODCR. Even if one is granted an official forgiveness from the State, the arrest record or Oklahoma court records may continue to negatively affect them. Only a full expungement will erase the conviction from the person’s criminal record and hide it from a warrant search.
A Pardon Is Required to Apply for An Expungement
That said, a Pardon is required to be able to apply for an expungement. Oklahoma law states that it cannot erase the criminal records or the records from county jail without an expungement. Nonetheless, receiving a Pardon is an important step in moving beyond past mistakes and becoming a productive member of society.
The Board receives, compiles and investigates the necessary information to prepare a Pardon packet and issue a recommendation to the Governor.
What Are The Requirements for a Pardon?
The requirements to seek a pardon are:
- You have been convicted of a violation of Oklahoma law, either a felony, misdemeanor or Municipal Court misdemeanor conviction involving alcohol or illegal drugs;
- You have no pending charges;
- You are not currently in jail or prison;
- You must have discharged all sentences, including any type of supervision; and
- You cannot have been considered for a Pardon within the past year.
A Pardon in Oklahoma can only be sought for Oklahoma convictions; federal convictions or convictions from other states must be dealt with in their respective jurisdictions. These are some conditions for being eligible:
- The person seeking a Pardon (the “applicant”), must not have any pending charges or currently be incarcerated.
- The sentence(s) must be completely discharged, including supervision.
- All fines, costs, assessments, restitution, etc., related to the conviction must be paid in full to be eligible to seek a Pardon.
Any criminal cases from jurisdictions outside of Oklahoma must also meet these criteria, even though they are not included in the consideration. Also, it must have been at least a year since the applicant last applied for a Pardon.
What's In A Pardon Application?
To start the process, an eligible applicant must fill out an Application for Pardon Consideration. The application process is a long and complicated process, and you might be better off getting professional assistance. Just compiling the required documentation can take weeks, if not months. An applicant may have someone else assist them in preparation of the application, such as an attorney experienced in the Pardon application process, but it is best when it's written from the applicant’s point of view (i.e., first person narrative).
The information provided in the application is the applicant’s chance to present themselves in the best possible light as a responsible and productive citizen. The Board considers such things as the nature of the crime(s) convicted of, how long ago the crimes were committed and what the applicant has done with their life since the crime(s) were committed, among other factors. The Board generally likes at least five years to have passed from the date of last discharge of a sentence. Other important factors considered include the applicant taking responsibility for their past actions and the reason(s) they are seeking the Pardon. The more specific, verified, and compelling the need for a Pardon, the better chance that it will be granted.
The Pardon application has multiple questions regarding:
- general contact/identifying information
- criminal record before and after the offense (non-convictions, arrests and even traffic offenses)
- biographical information
- substance abuse and mental health information
- civil and financial information
- military record
- occupational licensing
- charitable and community activities
- & last, but not least, reason(s) for seeking a Pardon.
The application form requests specifics of every crime of which you have been convicted, including the date that the crime occurred. If this information is omitted, it could result in the denial of the application.
How Do You Apply for A Pardon?
All of the questions must be answered fully, truthfully and accurately. An application will be immediately denied if an applicant submits any false or misleading information.
The completed Pardon application must also be sent with the following documentation in order to be considered:
1. Certified Judgment & Sentence for each conviction;
2. Certified statement from the Court Clerk for each conviction;
3. Current credit report;
4. Verification of employment or income; and
5. Verification of residence
If any of this required documentation/information is omitted, it could result in the denial of the application.
Another important component of a Pardon application is three notarized Character Affidavits, which are sworn statements by people who can vouch for the applicant’s character, reputation, conduct and activities since the conviction(s), including whether the applicant has been arrested or had any other trouble with the public authorities. These Character Affidavits should not come from family members if at all possible; the best options are priests or other religious leaders, current and/or past employers, coworkers, judges, law enforcement officials, state officials and other upstanding members of the community.
Finally, after completely filling out the application, the Certification and Personal Oath form must be signed and dated by the applicant, and notarized by a Notary Public. The applicant must also sign and date the Authorization for Release of Information form. After all of this is completed, the application package should then be sent to the Pardon and Parole Board General Counsel. There is no fee associated with applying for a Pardon.
Is a Pardon Really Worth The Trouble?
While the application process is a lengthy, arduous and complicated process, it is well worth the effort. What do you have to lose? Even if denied, you can reapply one year later and the heavy-lifting has already been done. On the other hand, if the Pardon is granted, the new opportunities that open up and rights/benefits regained will change you and your family's life for the better.
Pardons are an excellent option to help people with criminal convictions move beyond their past mistakes and move forward to a better future.