California

Applicable Form of Executive Clemency: Commutation of Sentence

California is unusual because if an applicant for commutation of sentence has been convicted of two or more felonies in separate proceedings a majority of the California Supreme Court must vote to approve the Governor's grant of clemency.

Eligibility: All inmates are eligible to apply.

Application Process: A petition requesting a commutation of sentence should be sent to:

Governor's Office 
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814 
tel: (916) 445-2841
fax: (916) 445-4633

The official petition form can be downloaded by clicking here. (Contains both application and notice of intent)

Once the applicant has the application and notice of intent, the applicant should complete the Application for Executive Clemency and have it notarized. The Notice of Intent to Apply for Executive Clemency should be sent via regular or certified mail to the District Attorney of each county in which the applicant was convicted of a felony.

The Acknowledgement of Receipt portion of the notice form must be completed and signed by the District Attorney. Both the application and the completed notice must then be submitted to the Governor's Office, along with a full statement of any compensation paid to any person for assisting in the procurement of a commutation of sentence.

Once the formal application is received, the Governor refers it to the Board of Prison Terms (BPT). BPT will conduct an investigation to determine whether the applicant meets the standards set forth in California Penal Code section 4852.05, which states, "During the period of rehabilitation the person shall live an honest and upright life, shall conduct himself or herself with sobriety and industry, shall exhibit a good moral character, and shall conform to and obey the laws of the land."

After the investigation, the case is presented to the Executive Board of the Board of Prison Terms which decides whether to recommend to the Governor that a commutation of sentence be granted. The applicant is notified of when the Board will be considering his or her case, and he or she is given the opportunity to forward any additional information, if desired.

Commutation applicants do not attend the commutation consideration meeting. Following the meeting, the application, investigation report, and the Board's recommendation are sent to the Governor. Notification of the meeting result is also sent to the applicant.

The Governor reviews the information and decides whether to grant a commutation of sentence. If the applicant has been convicted of more than one felony in separate proceedings, the California Supreme Court must also approve the grant of a commutation of sentence.

In the California Supreme Court an application for a recommendation for executive clemency is treated as a court proceeding. Applications are filed by the Clerk's Office and given a file number. A memorandum is then circulated among the justices and each justice indicates his or her recommendation on an accompanying voting sheet. Applications will be denied unless four or more justices vote to recommend that clemency be granted. The Chief Justice will inform the Governor by letter of the court's recommendation.

There is no requirement that the Governor issue a commutation of sentence to an applicant, and the length of time needed for the completion of the commutation process cannot be predicted.

When a commutation is granted, the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are notified. These agencies' records are then updated to show that a commutation has been granted in regard to the conviction.

A commutation of sentence is filed with the Secretary of State, reported to the Legislature, and becomes a matter of public record. Although no effort is made to publicize the commutation application or issuance, there is no guarantee that the issuance of a commutation to a particular person will not become known to the public.

Every effort has been made to make this information accurate and up-to-date. Errors are inevitable and changes occur frequently. We would appreciate learning of any errors or inaccuracies regarding any information on this Webpage as soon as possible. Please write to info@cjpf.org

Last Updated: 06/20/14