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What Is a Sentence Commutation?

Posted by Martens & Brusseau | Dec 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

A Chance for Relief

Being sentenced to prison for a crime is a life-changing event. While California is undergoing legal reform, many crimes still carry with them inappropriately long sentences. Whether a long sentence helps inmates reform their ways is debatable. Fortunately, there are some things inmates can do to ask for relief. Defendants sentenced to periods of incarceration in California can request to have their sentence reduced or eliminated by applying for a sentence commutation. A commutation of sentence is a type of sentencing relief. The Office of the Governor handles both commutations of sentences and gubernatorial pardons.

Applying for a Commutation

As stated above, you have to apply for a commutation of sentence. Not all applications are granted. This is one reason why it is important to consult with an attorney before applying for a commutation of sentence. An attorney can explain the process of applying and advise you on how to best present your argument. Historically, gubernatorial pardons and commutations of sentences were rarely granted. California's current governor Jerry Brown has shown more compassion than governors in the recent past, granting more commutations that his immediate predecessors. With that said, it's worth your time to learn about the process for applying for a sentence commutation and the possible outcomes you could face.

All inmates are eligible to apply for a sentence commutation. The application is relatively straightforward but requires your answers to be thought out. In your application, you must list all your conviction(s) and provide:

  • The circumstances of the crime you are requesting a commutation for
  • The reason why you are asking for a commutation of your sentence, and
  • Your reason why you believe you should be granted a commutation

You must also disclose any payment or gifts you gave to someone who helped you complete your application, such as an attorney or a friend. The application must also include a notice of intent, which is to be served on the district attorney.

The Review Process

Once your application is submitted, the Board of Prison Terms will review it. The board then makes recommendations to the Governor, who reviews every application and decides whether to grant the request. Reviewers will consider factors such as whether you lived an honest and upright life and exhibited good moral character, the nature and circumstances of your offense, the reason why you want a commutation, the benefits it can bring you, and the reasons why you deserve a commutation.

If you are granted a commutation of sentence, your sentence will either be reduced or eliminated. The commutation will be a part of the public record, and your conviction and sentence will still appear on background checks. You will also have to appear before the Board of Paroles, which decides whether you can be released early.

Your options for seeking sentencing relief once you have been issued a sentence are limited. Applying for a commutation of sentence is one way you can reduce or even eliminate your sentence. But your application must be able to demonstrate a good reason why you want a commutation and a good reason why you deserve one. If you need help doing this, speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you explore your options for sentencing relief and help you apply for a commutation of sentence if that is the right option for you.

An attorney can also help you if you are facing criminal charges. A good attorney can go over your defense options and advise you on what you can do to get a reduced sentence. For example, your attorney may be able to get you a plea bargain for a lesser offense, which typically means a shorter sentence. There are also sentencing alternatives in California including community service and work or school release. Speaking with an attorney is your first step if you are facing criminal charges.

If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about sentencing relief, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you defend your rights and move on with your life. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

About the Author

Martens & Brusseau

Bio Visalia and Bakersfield criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his life to helping those who have been accused of crimes or injured due to the negligence of others.


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