Hiring an Agency vs. Applying for a Pardon Yourself
One of the most common questions I am asked is: “why should I pay an agency to apply for a pardon for me when I can do it myself?” To be perfectly honest, there are pros and cons associated with either option, and the choice is ultimately a personal one. But as with all decisions, it is preferable to make an informed one than to simply take a stab in the dark, so I will address a few of the issues involved in this choice here.
To begin with it is possible to apply for a Canadian pardon on your own. Forms are available through the National Parole Board, some court houses, and certain police stations. You do not need a lawyer, and you will not have to appear before a judge in order to get your pardon. That being said, applying for a pardon is not simply a matter of ticking off a few boxes and signing on the dotted line. In order to be able to fill out the paperwork, you will have to do a considerable amount of legwork and will have to deal directly with various government agencies including the RCMP, courts, police, the National Parole BoardÂ and possibly the National Archives.
For a novice, navigatingÂ a bureaucraticÂ system like this can be both intimidating and extremely frustrating. Unfortunately, not all court workers and police/ RCMP officers are necessarily familiar with what is involved in a pardon application, and are therefore not always the best resource to consult if you have questions about how to complete your application. Most try to be as helpful as possible, but I have run in to some rather prickly characters over the years who have not only offered bad advice but outright misled the people who need it. Who is to be believed?
Another thing to consider is the fact that mistakes on criminal records are not altogether uncommon. A professional pardon service will know how to recognize errors and how to remedy them. Similarly, court workers and law enforcement officers can make mistakes when they complete the forms required for your pardon. Something as seemingly minor as forgetting to put their stamp in the appropriate spot can result in your pardon application being rejected by the Parole Board. Pardon services are trained to watch for this type of omission.
You should also keep in mind that applying for a pardon is very much a step-by-step process. You need to complete step A before moving on to step B, etc. Certain forms also expire after a specified period of time.Â Â Because of this people often jump the gun and complete certain steps too early, which allows the paperwork to expire, which means that they have to start all over again from square one.
An agency that specializes in pardons is obviously familiar with the process and should not make this type of mistake. Moreover, and again due to experience within the field, a competent pardon service may be able to shave months off of the process. A good pardon and waiver service will be able to determine if and when this is appropriate or even possible.
Finally, one very common misconception is that applying for a pardon on your own is free. It is not. Merely sending the application to the Parole Board for review costs $50 (note that since the time of writing that fee has increased to $631). Aside from that, there are costs associated with virtually every step of the process.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $25-$50 for fingerprinting and another $25 to have your prints certified by the RCMP. Ordering court records often carries fees as well. In Calgary, for instance, court records cost $20 per conviction.
If someone has 3 or 4 charges on their record, you can see how this could quickly add up. Finally, there may be fees for local police records checks. These range from $0- $80. Taken in this context, you can see that the fees charged by a pardon agency might not be so exhorbitant after all.
So while it is possible to apply for your pardon by yourself, hiring an agency can save you time and a lot of work. Many guarantee that your pardon will be granted, provided that you meet governmental eligibility requirements. Employing experienced professionals can also give you peace of mind. Just remember that not all companies are the same.
I cannot stress the importance of shopping around and asking questions. If you do decide to engage the services of a pardon agency, just be sure to ask whether there will be any additional costs involved and what you will be expected to contribute to the process. If you do this, chances are that you won’t regret your choice.