By Keith McCarter, B.S., J.D. McCarter University
An esteemed California State Senator, Robert M. Hertzberg from District 18 (Eastern San Fernando Valley), wrote Senate Bill, SB-405 to allow a grant of amnesty for traffic violators in the State of California. This bill was passed on September 11, 2015 and made effective on October 1, 2015. This bill was first introduced on February 25, 2015. Thus, it took less than eight months to have the bill signed into law by the governor of California since the first introduction of the bill. This is an example of what competent and effective lawmakers do, write effective bills to benefit the majority of the public.
Amnesty is the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals. A good example is when President Reagan granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who came into the country before 1982. This policy was espoused in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
Usually there are terms and conditions to qualify. For instance, in the Immigration Reform and Control Act the immigrant must not have committed any crimes to qualify.
Amnesty for Traffic Violations
Because of SB-405, now everyone with certain traffic violations may be excused or pardoned from the violation. In order to qualify for the amnesty you must: apply in the county where you had the failure to appear or failure to pay violation; have a case that was due on or before January 1, 2013, have made a last payment on or before September 30, 2015; owe no restitution; and have no outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants within the county where the violation occurred
Of the 58 California Counties benefitting from this bill, 15 include misdemeanor violations within the amnesty parameters. Unfortunately San Bernardino County does not allow amnesty for misdemeanor violations under this bill. SB-405 does not permit any county to pardon felonies, parking tickets, reckless driving or DUI offenses.
The result of being accepted into this amnesty program is a discount of up to 80% on the fees related to the traffic violation. Anyone interested in taking advantage of this opportunity must apply at the Superior Court before March 31, 2017.
Amnesty By State Government
There are essentially two ways a person can apply for Amnesty in the State of California. One is by obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation from the Superior Court. The second is to seek a direct pardon from the governor. Usually when the Superior Court refuses to give a certificate of rehabilitation or when the person in question does not live in the state, they may choose to seek a direct pardon.
An application for a certificate of rehabilitation may be obtained from the Superior Court clerk, probation department or the public defender’s office. Once this application is filed, an investigation into your life and previous crimes will ensue. After due consideration has been given, the court will schedule a hearing. If the court grants the certificate of rehabilitation, an application for pardon is immediately forwarded to the governor’s office. Even though a certificate of rehabilitation is given great weight by the governor’s office, this does not guarantee the applicant will receive a pardon.
A person may pick up a direct pardon application from the governor’s office in Sacramento. The governor may or may not take action on the application. If the governor takes action, he will forward the application to the California Board of Parole. The Board of Parole may then seek further investigations from the district attorney’s office in the county where the crime was committed. Only upon recommendation of the Board of Parole will the governor seriously consider granting a parole.
Amnesty By Federal Government
When a person is convicted of a felony they are prevented from engaging in many activities for most of his/her life. These restrictions include but are not limited to disbarment and doing business with the government (10 U.S.C. Section 2408), voting rights and jury service (State Law), owning a firearm (18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3)), entering the Armed Forces (10 U.S.C. Section 504), flying (49 U.S.C. 44703, 44101-44103, having a private radio licenses (47 U.S.C. Section 312 (a)), having other federal licenses (19 U.S.C. Section 1641, holding federal office (US Constitution Article 1), obtaining federal employment (18 U.S.C. Section 201(b), state license and occupational restrictions, obtaining federal benefits (21 U.S.C. Section 862) and travel restrictions.
When applying for a federal pardon the petitioner (person applying) must have been released from incarceration at least 5 years prior to the filing of the pardon application. Once completed the application may be submitted to the United States Pardon Attorney.
Within the application you must state the reason you are requesting a pardon, show why you think you deserve a pardon, show evidence of credit history, arrest history and submit character references.
Now is the Time
Regardless of whether the public supports the option of amnesty or not, this is a mechanism which currently exist and is very rarely known to many communities. Further, if such mechanism is known, these communities very rarely understand the apparent complexities of the application. As described above, the application process really is not very difficult. You will simply need to compile certain documentation which evidences your successful and continuous integration back into mainstream society.
Have you ever dreamed of having the limitations placed on your life by the conviction of a felony lifted? The best time to ask a governor or president for a pardon is when they are leaving office. This is a big election year. We will be electing a new president and new governors nationwide. Historically this is the period during which pardons are given.
There is no particular period allotted for the consideration of an application. If the governor or president wish to seriously consider giving a pardon, they can do so immediately after the application has been submitted or wait for a long period of time before they even review the documents.
Thus, if you have a state or federal crime conviction, it is not too late to request a pardon. If you are sincere and thorough you may even be able to compile the documents needed for the application yourself without the use of an attorney. One warning though. If you submit any false information, that is grounds for your application being immediately be denied. I suppose at least a basic investigation is completed upon the submission of an application. In completing the application it is best to be completely honest and forthright.
I encourage those convicted of crimes to file for a pardon. My reasons for this encouragement is a bit unusual. If a person applies for a pardon he/she will learn two very important points. He/she will learn more of what society expects from him/her. By submitting documentation for each requirement of the application and explaining why the person believes he/she deserves a pardon, he or she realizes what the courts and society consider to be law abiding people. A law abiding person, in my opinion, does not merely obey the law. There is more to it than that. A law-abiding person obeys the law and complies with social norms even if there is not a law written to enforce the norm.
One simple example is the accumulation of good credit. One will not be charged with a crime solely for having bad credit. However, society desires everyone to have good credit. So even if a person does not have good credit, he or she is considered law abiding through attempting to follow the moral standards set by the society.
The second reason I encourage everyone with a criminal record to apply for a pardon is because they will learn more about themselves. Soon they will began to think of ways they can be a better person, for instance by joining a social club or volunteering for a local non-profit organization. Learning more about ourselves helps us to facilitate positive changes from within.
I encourage everyone with a criminal past to file an application for a pardon. If your pardon is granted, I congratulate you because now you are entitled to many benefits which were previously denied upon your conviction. If your pardon is not granted I still congratulate you because now you have become more knowledgeable about our legal process and surely have become a better person.