Most people are familiar with presidential pardons. However, governors of states also have the power to award pardons under certain circumstances. In December of 2018, New York governor Andrew Cuomo provided clemency to 29 felons. Many of them faced deportation, but now they can remain in the country.
Pardons can free someone from prison, and in certain circumstances, they can restore the individual's voting rights. Another form of clemency involves commuting a sentence. In this instance, the person is freed from prison but still has certain civil disabilities. After commutation, the person cannot sit on a federal jury or vote. Although many convicted felons would like to receive a pardon or commutation, not many people get them, and the process for getting them can be long.
The New York governor can provide standard pardons if a felon meets specific criteria. Only those convicted of a state crime in New York can receive a pardon from the governor. Individuals in federal prison need a pardon from the President. The felon must wait a minimum of five years before applying for a pardon in New York. In the event the individual was a minor at the time of conviction, then he or she must wait at least 10 years before applying.
Individuals who committed non-violent crimes when they were 16 or 17 years old can also petition for a pardon. To qualify, these felons must show they have been outstanding members of society and are current residents of New York. Felons also need to have paid all taxes on time.
An incarcerated individual must meet criteria to get a sentence commuted. The minimum sentence length for the person must be one year. The person must have already served at least half of the sentence. Additionally, the individual cannot be eligible for parole within one year of applying for clemency. The burden of proof is on the incarcerated individual to show why a commutation is essential.