6 Life-Changing Benefits of Getting a Pardon in Oklahoma

6 Life-Changing Benefits of Getting a Pardon in Oklahoma

Pardons, which grant you legal forgiveness and relief from the consequences of a criminal conviction, can be transformative. Just ask Alice Marie Johnson, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for nonviolent drug crimes. Johnson, now a grandmother in her 60s, was granted a full and unconditional pardon in August of 2020, after nearly 20 years in jail, and went on to write a memoir and become an advocate for sentencing reform.

Like Alice, many convicted criminals want to turn their lives around. But a ruined reputation, plus employment and housing discrimination, can make it incredibly difficult. A pardon is a way to say to the world that you’ve changed. And the benefits of a pardon can be life-changing:

1. Restore Your Reputation

A felony conviction – even a nonviolent one – comes with a stigma that can ruin your reputation in your professional life and your community. But a pardon, which comes directly from the governor of Oklahoma, provides official recognition that you’ve worked to improve yourself since you committed the crime. While you can’t change the past, a pardon shows that you’ve learned from your mistakes.

2. Restore Your Gun Rights

Hunting and shooting are time-honored traditions in Oklahoma, where nearly 55% of residents own a gun. Yet those convicted of a felony not only can’t own a gun, they can’t live in a home or ride in a car with a gun, and they can’t participate in activities like hunting. It’s no surprise that many Oklahomans consider restoring their gun rights one of the biggest benefits of a pardon. Keep in mind, however, that if you’ve been convicted of a violent felony, it is far less likely your pardon request will be granted, and you may be barred from obtaining your gun rights due to federal law.

3. Get a Passport

A felony on your record can mess with your travel plans in several ways. First, some countries might not let you in with certain felony convictions, even if you have a passport. Plus, there are certain crimes that prevent you from getting a passport, and a pardon will lift that ban. Crimes that can prevent you from getting a passport include:

  • Unpaid federal taxes
  • Unpaid child support
  • International drug trafficking
  • Distribution of controlled substances

4. Increase Your Employment Opportunities

When you apply for a job, many employers will run a background check. Any criminal record – but especially violent felonies – can make them think twice about hiring you. While the crime you were pardoned for will still show up, they’ll also be able to see that you were pardoned. And, if you get an expungement for your crime, it won’t show up at all.

Certain crimes will reduce your chances of getting certain jobs even more. For example, those convicted of drug crimes often can’t work in nursing, pharmacies, and hospitals. Fraud and embezzlement prevent you from working as an accountant and in many other professional services. And many professions won’t allow violent felons at all. Since you need a job to avoid going back to prison, it’s easy to see why opening up your employment opportunities is a massive benefit of a pardon.

5. Apply for Public Housing

Like employment, housing is another important piece of the puzzle for staying out of prison. Under federal rules, only two crimes prevent you from accessing public housing:

  • Those that require you to register as a sex offender for life
  • Making methamphetamine on federally assisted property

Yet the final decision is ultimately left up to the states, and Oklahoma is strict when it comes to public housing assistance and criminal records. The state has a stricter version of the rules above, automatically denying:

  • Anyone required to register as a sex offender, even if not for life
  • Anyone with a meth-related conviction in the past 10 years, regardless of the crime or location

Other than that, the housing agency will look at your criminal record for the past three years and consider a variety of factors. In Oklahoma, this often means restrictions, even denying people with multiple arrests that didn’t lead to convictions. A pardon can eliminate this uncertainty and confusion, and help you find an affordable place to live.

6. Get an Expungement

An expungement means that your crime will be removed from the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN), and you won’t have to tell employers, landlords, or anyone else about it. You have to wait a certain amount of time, and felonies are more difficult to get expunged (and violent felonies can’t be expunged at all). But if you receive a pardon, you’ll be able to get an expungement no matter what type of crime you committed or how long ago. 

The Bottom Line

From restoring your rights to getting a job and housing, the benefits of a pardon are undeniable. If you’re ready to change your life for the better, the first step is to get a pardon lawyer who can help you navigate the process and argue your case. Contact the Tulsa Expungement Guy today for a free case evaluation. We’re happy to go over your eligibility and get started on your case.