Any person who has been convicted of a crime in California may apply to the Governor for a pardon.

There are two different paths that one can take to apply for a pardon. In applying for a pardon, most people must first obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) from the Superior Court in the county where he or she currently resides, which, when granted, is itself an application for a pardon. Anyone otherwise ineligible for a COR must use the "traditional" pardon procedure which requires a pardon application to be filed directly in the Office of the Governor.

Most people who have been convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor sex offense specifically set forth in Penal Code §290, the accusatory pleading of which has been dismissed pursuant to Penal Code §§ 1203.4 or 1203.4a, may file a COR petition. Those who are ineligible, and are not able to file a COR petition, are identified in the section entitled, "WHO IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR A CERTIFICATE OF REHABILITATION, BUT MAY STILL APPLY FOR A PARDON."

Once a pardon application or certified COR is received by the Governor, it is referred to the Board of Prison Terms for the completion of an investigation into the rehabilitative character of the applicant. The Board may contact the district attorney, investigating law enforcement agency and other persons with relevant information on or concerning the applicant (i.e. the person who is seeking the pardon).

No fee is charged for applying for a pardon.

Although, upon receipt of the certified COR, the Governor may grant a full pardon without further investigation (except when two or more felony convictions are reported from separate proceedings), in most cases, the Governor will refer the application for parole to the Board of Prison Terms for them to conduct a further investigation. Following review of the Board's report, the Governor may grant the requested pardon.

If the applicant has been convicted of one or more felonies in separate proceedings, the California Supreme Court, by a vote of four (4) justices, must first approve the granting of a full pardon.

Source: Office of the Governor, Legal Affairs Secretary, California; California Constitution; Penal Code