If you are convicted of a felony in Florida, you will lose many of your constitutional rights, including the right to vote, to sit on a jury, to hold public office and to possess a firearm. These rights will be suspended indefinitely. To restore these rights, you need to obtain clemency from the Florida pardon board, which is made up of the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Types of Florida Clemency
Many types of clemency are issued in Florida. Here are some of the most common forms:
- Full pardon: This type of pardon unconditionally releases a person from punishment and forgives his guilt for a conviction. It restores all constitutional rights.
- Pardon without firearm authority: This pardon is like a full pardon, but the right to own, possess and use firearms is not reinstated, so those who receive this form of pardon cannot use or own guns in the future.
- Restoration of civil rights: Like the pardon without firearm authority, this option restores a person's right to vote, hold office and serve on a jury, without restoring the right to possess a firearm. In this case though, the petitioner is not released from punishment or forgiven of guilt.
- Misdemeanor pardon: While most pardons are for felonies, as misdemeanors do not usually cost a person his constitutional rights, those who seek a pardon for a misdemeanor are released from punishment and forgiven of guilt.
- Commutation of sentence: Unlike a pardon, this form of clemency does not restore civil rights or forgive guilt, but simply reduces the penalty a person is facing.
- Remission of fines and forfeitures: Like a commutation of sentence, this does not restore civil rights or forgive guilt, but simply suspends, reduces or removes the fines or forfeitures a person must pay for her conviction.
All types of clemency can be subjected to certain conditions. If these are breached, the clemency may be revoked, restoring the convict's status to its state before the pardon was issued.
How to Qualify for a Pardon
Most types of clemency require a person to wait a period of time after his sentence has been fully served in order to petition the board. This is not the case when it comes to the commutation of a sentence or remission of fines and forfeitures, as they specifically apply to the sentence itself.
For all other forms of clemency, the sentence must be served, the wait period must have expired, all restitution and fines must be paid in full, and the convict must not be subject to any pending criminal charges, warrants or detainers.
Wait times to petition for clemency vary depending on the offense and type of pardon sought. For example, a commutation of sentence requires at least one-third of the sentence, one-half of a minimum mandatory sentence, or 12 1/2 years of a life sentence to be completed. For a full pardon, you must wait 10 years since completing your sentence. To obtain a restoration of civil rights, you must wait five years for less serious offenses and seven years for more serious offenses.
How to Get a Pardon in Florida
Before filing a petition to pardon your crimes, obtain certified court documents for each felony conviction you want pardoned, then fill out an Application for Clemency and submit it to the Office of Executive Clemency.
After the Clemency Board receives your paperwork, it will first see if you are eligible for a governor pardon in Florida. If you qualify, it will then consider a number of factors to determine whether to grant clemency. Among other things, it will look at the offense itself, your criminal record, your employment history, your mental health records, whether you have had an issue with drugs or alcohol, whether you have been a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, and any letters submitted in favor of or in opposition to your clemency request.
The board may request further information in order to make this decision and, while you are not legally required to submit such information, failure to do so will likely result in a denial of your application. In some cases, the board may schedule a hearing with an examiner of the Florida Commission on Offender Review, who may go on to speak with other people in your life or those involved in your conviction.
If clemency is approved, you will be sent a Certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights.