If you have been convicted of a criminal offense and probation has been granted you can petition for dismissal for a California state crime after you have successfully completed probation. You can also petition for dismissal of a felony county jail sentence after two years of non supervised release or after one year successful completion of supervised release. However, if you have been sentenced to State prison on a state felony or to Federal prison on a federal offense you are not eligible for dismissal and an executive pardon is the only way to help clear your record.
For a Governor’s pardon there is a 2 year waiting period plus a 5 year residency requirement in the county from which the petition is filed. For a Presidential pardon there is a 5 year waiting period. The Governor’s pardon requires the petition be filed with the District Attorney of the county of residence and also that it be served on the District Attorney of the county of conviction. The District Attorney will file a report with the Superior Court and a hearing will be scheduled. If the District Attorney and the court determine eligibility a certificate of rehabilitation will be sent to the Governor for his final decision to grant or deny a pardon.
For a Presidential pardon a petition is filed with a special United States Attorney for his determination of eligibility and if there is eligibility the petition is sent to the President for granting or denial of the petition.
In either case the decision of the Governor or President is final with no appellate procedure in place. A primary reason for obtaining a pardon is that it restores civil rights that may have been lost as a result of a conviction.