How to Apply for a Governor’s Pardon

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

A governor?s pardon is tantamount to having the top executive of your state forgiving you for a crime to which you either plead guilty or of which you were convicted. Unlike a records expungement, your criminal record will be neither sealed nor erased. Nevertheless, there are plenty of advantages that a governor?s pardon does offer.

  • The application process is free of charge. You do not need to hire an attorney.
  • Your civil rights are restored. You may once again serve on a jury. In many jurisdictions, your right to own a firearm is also restored.
  • You may apply for employment as a county probation officer and other selected peace officer positions.
  • Depending on your state?s rules, you may no longer have to register as a sex offender.

The application process varies by state.

  • Verify that you are eligible to apply. A governor cannot grant a pardon for a federal offense such as impeachment or treason. In some cases, the state?s executive is also barred from granting a pardon for convictions related to municipal ordinance violations. Some states will allow you to apply for a pardon even while you are still incarcerated for the crime. In contrast, the governor of the State of California, for example, will not review pardon requests unless you have been discharged from the parole or probation system for at least a decade and have had no subsequent activity noted on your criminal record.
  • Ensure that your offense can be considered for a pardon. The State of New Mexico limits its governor?s right of pardon to exclude habitual offenders and those whose convictions involved violent crimes against children.
  • Fill out the application. Available from the governor?s office, each state has a different type of pardon application. Fill out the required information and be sure to include compelling reasons for your request. Support your statements with proofs of educational achievements, civic involvement and positive contributions that you have made to your community after your conviction.
  • Include required documentation. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may have to include an employment history, parole board report or certificate of rehabilitation.
  • Mail in the paperwork. Perhaps the hardest part is waiting to hear back from the governor?s office. After mailing in your completed application, the governor?s office will not respond to your subsequent inquiries. Instead, the office will contact you if or when the governor has taken action on your application.

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