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Posted on July 19, 2020 in Arizona Law

What is Clemency?

A criminal conviction results in a variety of punishments. Depending on the crime, a person could pay a fine and perform community service. However, many crimes result in incarceration.

The time you serve in prison can be significant, depending on the crime. You could serve 20, 30, or 40 years in prison. Some individuals receive life in prison.

With mandatory sentencing guidelines for some crimes, the punishment may not always fit the crime. There could be mitigating circumstances to consider. If you have been convicted of a crime in Arizona, you may want to discuss filing a clemency petition with a criminal defense lawyer.

What is a Clemency Petition in Arizona?

A clemency petition is a request for some type of relief from a criminal conviction. Arizona laws give the Governor the authority to grant clemency to someone convicted of a crime. The Governor has the sole power to grant or deny clemency.

There are three types of clemency under Arizona laws.

Commutation of Sentence

A commutation of sentence shortens your prison sentence. It does not eliminate your criminal conviction. The commutation only shortens or reduces the punishment ordered by the court for the crime.

The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency receives and reviews all clemency petitions. The Board reviews the petition and decides whether to recommend the prisoner to the Governor for a commutation of sentence.

Not all inmates are eligible for a commutation of their sentence. An inmate may apply for commutation if:

  • The person has served at least two years of a sentence that is three years or longer
  • The sentencing judge issued an order at the time of sentencing because the judge believed the sentence was clearly excessive
  • The person is terminally ill with less than four months to live
  • The person is about to be executed

The clemency board wants to see that an inmate is genuinely remorseful for the crime and demonstrates a desire to turn his or her life around. The Board also looks favorably upon inmates who have exemplary behavior while in prison and who are no longer a threat to society.

Pardons

The clemency board also reviews and recommends cases to the Governor for a pardon. Only the Governor can grant a pardon.

A pardon forgives your crime and removes any portion of the sentence you have remaining for the crime. The pardon does not entirely wipe the crime away. Your criminal records still remain, but you can state on employment and other applications that you received a pardon from the Governor.

A pardon by the Arizona Governor restores many of your constitutional rights that you might have lost when you were convicted. Your gun rights are not restored by a pardon unless the pardon specifically restores your gun rights.

You must have been convicted of a felony to apply for a pardon in Arizona. Examples of felony crimes in Arizona include, but are not limited to:

The clemency board considers numerous factors for a pardon, including but not limited to:

  • The type of crime you committed
  • Why you are requesting a pardon
  • Your overall criminal history and rehabilitation efforts since your conviction
  • Contributions to the community since your release
  • Reference letters in support of your pardon

The pardon process can be lengthy. It can help to have an experienced clemency lawyer assist you with the pardon process.

Reprieves

Reprieves are also a form of clemency, but it is a temporary form of clemency. A reprieve places a “hold” on the implementation of a sentence. Reprieves are often referred to as “stays of execution,” as they are generally used to stop a death row inmate from being executed.

If an inmate is granted a reprieve, the Governor could also grant the inmate a pardon or commutation. The Governor cannot grant a reprieve without a recommendation from the clemency board.

Do I Need a Clemency Attorney to Help Me?

The clemency process can be lengthy and complicated. The clemency board receives and reviews many applications for clemency. Only those applications that are complete and demonstrate a strong reason for clemency are recommended to the Governor.

Even though you can file for clemency without a lawyer, you might want to consider why you need a lawyer. You are requesting that the clemency board and the Governor grant you relieve from a conviction. Therefore, you must prove that you have a legal reason for clemency, or you are worthy of being considered for clemency.

You need to make a strong argument in favor of recommending clemency. A clemency lawyer understands the process. But even more, the attorney understands what the clemency board is looking for when they review clemency applications.

A lawyer can create a narrative that highlights the reasons why you deserve clemency and focus on the reasons that are most important to the clemency board. Having a legal advocate can save you time and may give you a better chance of receiving a pardon or commutation of your sentence.