How To Apply For a Federal Criminal Pardon: The Process and Information You Need to Know

The Process of Criminal Pardon

The Process of Criminal Pardon

What is a Pardon?

A pardon refers to the act of a head of state, such as a governor or the President in the U.S., excusing a crime that was committed. When one is granted, it treats the matter as if the crime never happened. The intended effect of a pardon is to restore a rehabilitated person to their original status before the crime happened through restoring rights and removing some of the negativity involved with the crime. Pardons are a rare occurrence, but when the situation is appropriate and all other options have been exhausted, it can never hurt to try.

A lapse in judgment or an adolescent indiscretion can create a criminal for life. Outstanding achievements and stellar performances for good causes can lead to a governor’s pardon.  Pardons wipe away crimes, reinstating persons civil rights, as if the crimes had never happened. States have similar procedures but check your state for differences.

Federal Criminal Convictions:

Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President. In addition, the President’s pardon power extends to convictions adjudicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court-martial proceedings. However, the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense. Accordingly, if you are seeking clemency for a state criminal conviction, you should not complete and submit this petition. Instead, you should contact the Governor or other appropriate authorities of the state where you reside or where the conviction occurred (such as the state board of pardons and paroles) to determine whether any relief is available to you under state law. If you have a federal conviction, information about the conviction may be obtained from the clerk of the federal court where you were convicted.

How to write a Pardon Letter:

Tips & Warnings

  • Send letters of recommendation and personal reference from friends, family and former employers along with the pardon letter. If possible, approach well-known pillars of your community, like public officials, pastors and business leaders, and ask them to write reference letters for you.
  • Formal letters such as pardon letters should be typed, but neat handwriting is acceptable as well.
  • Before you begin writing a pardon letter, consult with a trustworthy lawyer and make sure that you are eligible for pardon in the first place. Some states require a certain number of years to pass between conviction and pardon.
    • Write your name, address and telephone number at the top of the page.
    • Skip a line, and write “The Honorable Governor John Doe,” followed by “Governor of Your State,” the gubernatorial house’s address, and the date.
    • Skip a line, and write “Dear Governor” or “Dear Governor Doe.” End the salutation with a colon instead of a comma.
    • Write a paragraph detailing the nature of your crime, the date, and the nature of the conviction or verdict that you have received. Briefly state why you wish to be pardoned.
    • Write a second paragraph detailing your activities since the conviction. Jobs, participation in church groups and rehabilitation, and family activities could all influence the governor to rule in your favor. Convince the governor that you are truly sorry for what you have done and that you have worked hard to be a positive contributor to society and your community.
    • Write a third paragraph restating your reasons for writing the pardon letter, and sincerely thanking the governor for his time.
    • Write “Sincerely,” or “Yours Truly,” and then your name. If you’re typing the letter, leave five lines in between the closing and your name and sign the letter when you print it out. If you are writing the letter by hand, sign and then print your name.


How to apply for a Criminal Pardon:  Please visit for full details.  Notice:  Do not rush through this process take your time make sure you have all requirements in order before submission.

Pardon Process Instructions:


Obtain a copy of your criminal record from the state’s crime information center. The crime information center will have a record of all your arrests and any convictions. Check for inaccuracies.


Check for other pending charges. You’re not a candidate for a pardon if you’re waiting for a hearing on a crime.


Ask for a form at each agency that you were arrested, including sheriffs, police departments, state bureau of investigations, etc. The forms are free, but you may have a cost associated with filing. Present required identification.


Complete all the forms and then make copies of completed forms.


Mail the forms to the designated office indicated for your particular state. The police or sheriff’s office can direct you. The Pardon Advisory Board will send you a return letter in the mail advising you of the day and time to appear before the board.


Defend your case. The Pardon Advisory Board will ask you many questions, giving you a chance to speak on your behalf and allowing you to present reasons why you request a pardon. The Pardon Advisory Board takes a vote and passes on their recommendation to the governor. The governor reviews the board’s recommendation, and then notifies the applicant by mail of the decision. It’s not customary for the governor to meet with applicants.


More details:

Five-year waiting period required

Under the Department’s rules governing petitions for executive clemency, 28 C.F.R. §§ 1.1 et seq., an applicant must satisfy a minimum waiting period of five years before he becomes eligible to apply for a presidential pardon of his federal conviction. The waiting period, which is designed to afford the petitioner a reasonable period of time in which to demonstrate an ability to lead a responsible, productive and law-abiding life, begins on the date of the petitioner’s release from confinement. Alternatively, if the conviction resulted in a sentence that did not include any form of confinement, including community or home confinement, the waiting period begins on the date of sentencing. In addition, the petitioner should have fully satisfied the penalty imposed, including all probation, parole, or supervised release before applying for clemency. Moreover, the waiting period begins upon release from confinement for your most recent conviction, whether or not this is the offense for which pardon is sought. You may make a written request for a waiver of this requirement. However, waiver of any portion of the waiting period is rarely granted and then only in the most exceptional circumstances. In order to request a waiver, you must complete the pardon application form and submit it with a cover letter explaining why you believe the waiting period should be waived in your case.

 Reason for seeking pardon

State the specific purpose for which you are seeking pardon and, if applicable, attach any relevant documentary evidence that indicates how a pardon will help you accomplish that purpose (such as citations to applicable provisions of state constitutions, statutes, or regulations, or copies of letters from appropriate officials of administrative agencies, professional associations, licensing authorities, etc.). In addition, you should bear in mind that a presidential pardon is ordinarily a sign of forgiveness and is granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or release from confinement. A pardon is not a sign of vindication and does not connote or establish innocence. For that reason, when considering the merits of a pardon petition, pardon officials take into account the petitioner’s acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement for the offense.

5. Multiple federal convictions

If you have more than one federal conviction, the most recent conviction should be shown in response to question 2 of the petition and the form completed as to that conviction. For all other federal convictions, including convictions by military courts-martial, the information requested in questions 2 through 6 of the petition should be provided on an attachment. Any federal charges not resulting in conviction should be reported in the space provided for prior and subsequent criminal record (question 7).

6. Pardon of a military offense

If you are requesting pardon of a court-martial conviction only, you should submit your completed petition directly to the Secretary of the military department that had original jurisdiction in your case, and listing in your responses to questions 2 through 6 and question 15 of the petition form all pertinent information concerning your court-martial trial and conviction. The addresses for submitting a request for a pardon of a court-martial conviction can be found at

To Applicants for Pardon:


Forms Required for Pardon Application:

– You must have Adobe Acrobat version 7 or higher to view this form. Download free Adobe Acrobat Reader.


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2 replies

  1. Hello, just wanted to say, I liked this article.
    It wwas practical. Keep on posting!


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