Alabama Pardon Information
Under the Alabama Constitution, the pardon power is shared between the Governor and the Legislature. The Constitution gives the Legislature the power to regulate the administration of pardons, paroles, remission of fines and forfeitures, and to authorize the courts to suspend sentence and order probation. The Governor, on the other hand, retains the right to grant reprieves and commutations in capital cases.
The Legislature has created the Board of Pardons and Parole to handle pardon applications. Therefore, unless your case is a capital case or a case involving treason or impeachment, this is the governmental body which would be handling your pardon application.
The Board of Pardons and Parole consists of three members who serve six-year terms. These members are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole or other types of clemency that may be available in Alabama here. We also do not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, dismissal or setting aside of convictions. You should talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.
In Alabama, you are eligible to apply for a pardon after you have either (a) completed your sentence (if your sentence is three years or less) or (b) completed three consecutive years of parole. If you were placed on supervised or unsupervised probation, you can apply for a pardon after you have completed your probationary period.
If you are still serving your sentence and have not completed at least three consecutive years of parole, you can still apply for a pardon if you can show that you were innocent of the crime you were convicted of. In this case, you must file “clear proof” of your innocence along with written approval by the district attorney or the sentencing judge who was involved in your case. The Board of Pardons and Parole must then grant your application by a unanimous vote (as opposed to a simple majority).
The Board generally only considers pardon applications for Alabama State convictions. The Board will consider pardon applications for federal or out-of-state convictions only if you (the applicant) are a resident of Alabama at the time the Board considers your application. If you were convicted of a city ordinance, you should apply for a pardon from the mayor of that city rather than through the Board.
There is an option in Alabama for you to receive from the Board something called a “certificate of eligibility to vote.” This option is available to those who have completed their sentence, have paid all fines, court costs, and restitution, and have no charges pending against them. This certificate only restores your voting rights and is not available to those convicted of certain violent and sex offenses. You should inquire with the Board or talk to an attorney if you are interested in this option.
Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances. Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction(s) are, and the more compelling your life story is, the higher your chance of getting a pardon. Your chance of getting a pardon can also depend on who is serving as Governor at the time your application is reviewed. Some Governors are more lenient than others in handing out pardons.
The Application Process
The Board of Pardons and Parole cannot approve your pardon application until it has:
- Held an open public meeting on your application;
- Notified the district attorney, the prosecutor and the judge who handled your case, the Chief of Police of the municipality where the crime occurred, and the Sheriff of the county where the crime occurred; and
- Given those individuals an opportunity to appear in person or in writing to present their views. For certain offenses, Alabama law also requires that the Board give notice to the victim or the victim’s family before making any decision on your pardon application.
To apply for a pardon, you must start by doing one of the following three things:
- Contact the local State Probation and Parole Office in the area where you (the applicant) live.
- Contact the Board of Pardons and Parole by telephone at (334) 242-8700, and ask to speak with the Pardon Unit Staff; or
- Contact the Board of Pardons and Parole in writing at P.O. Box 302405, Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2405.
At the time of this writing, there were no fees to apply and no formal standardized application form for you to fill out. You start the process by simply calling or writing to the Board and providing them with the following information:
- The name under which you were convicted
- Your true name
- Your gender and race
- Your date of birth
- Your social security number
- Your AIS# (Alabama Prison #), if you have one
- Your current physical address, including the county
- Your current mailing address if different from your physical address
- An indication whether the conviction was a state or federal conviction
- Your home telephone number, including area code
- Your work or alternate telephone number, including area code
- A complete list of all of your convictions, including the county they were in and the year of each conviction
If you do not remember all of your convictions, you should go to the nearest local police station, and they can show you how to obtain your criminal record for Alabama offenses. You can also contact the Alabama Department of Public Safety at (334) 242-4371 or check out their website at http://acjic.state.al.us/citizens.cfm to find out how to obtain your criminal record.
If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report for yourself from the FBI. You can find out how to do this by calling the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., a (202) 324-3000, or logging onto its website at http://www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call.
In the alternative, you can contact the criminal history record repository (which keeps a record of all criminal activity in a state) in each state where you have arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
The above is just a list of the minimum information that the Board requires. If possible, you should also submit written references or letters from family, friends, church leaders, church members, teachers, employers and/or co-workers who know you and can say good things about you to support your application. It is better to choose individuals who are not related to you, to avoid the appearance of bias.
The letters should tell the Board how the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you are deserving of a pardon. The letters would have more credibility if they are notarized (signed in front of a notary public). A notary public can be found in most banks. They may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether the person has an account with that bank.
You should also submit a personal statement explaining why you would like a pardon. Simply saying you want a clean criminal record again is not enough. Tell the Board how it would benefit you and/or your family—for example, open up more job opportunities for you, help you avoid deportation/separation from your family, help you obtain a professional license, etc.
Also indicate on your personal statement all the positive things that have occurred in your life since you received your last conviction—for example, educational achievements, new or stable employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable services or donations, law-abiding behavior, etc. Submit copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, military certificates, marriage certificate, honors and awards, and other evidence of your rehabilitation.
In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Board is not retrying you for the offense. Although you may want to explain the facts of the crime from your perspective, avoid trying to make excuses for your crime and argue away your guilt. The Board is probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.
In addition, you should indicate somewhere in your application whether you are only interested in restoring your voting rights or are interested in both restoring your voting rights and getting a pardon. If you are interested in getting a pardon, you should also indicate if you need a pardon for a misdemeanor for purposes of obtaining a license (for example, a nursing license); otherwise, the Board will assume you are only interested in having your felony convictions pardoned. If you are only interested in restoring your voting rights, the process is expedited and may or may not include a hearing.
Once the Board has received your written request for a pardon, with all the requested information above, your case will be assigned to a probation officer for investigation. As part of the investigation, the officer will look into your current home situation, your employment status, your criminal record, any references or letters you have submitted, the circumstances surrounding your offense, and any other information the Board deems appropriate. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board and its agents at all times.
Once the investigation stage is complete, the Board will schedule a hearing. The Board will notify you, the victim (or the victim’s guardian if a minor), and those public officials who are entitled to receive notice (as listed above) about the hearing. The hearing will be an “open public meeting,” which simply means that anyone from the general public can attend. You must look and act your best at the hearing; if possible, dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial (this means, for men, a suit and tie).
At the hearing, you will have the first opportunity to make a statement to the Board for why you should be granted the pardon. After you are done, the victim and public officials who are present (the district attorney, judge, etc.) will then have an opportunity to express their views.
The Board may, in its discretion, allow any other person to offer any information to aid it in making its decision. If possible, you should take advantage of this opportunity by bringing a family member, a close friend, a teacher, a neighbor, your boss, your minister, a co-worker or a church member to the hearing to show their support and possibly make a statement. Keep in mind that whatever they say will be under oath. The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Board not only see you in person, but also see the amount of support you have in your community.
The Board will make a decision whether to grant or deny your application at the hearing, or it may schedule another hearing if more investigation is needed. If the Board grants you a pardon (which requires a majority vote), the reasons for each Board member’s decision granting you a pardon will become a public record, although all other parts of your application will remain confidential.
The length of the whole process can vary from one applicant to the next; it can take up to two years to complete. Between 2006 and 2007, the Board considered 805 pardons, and granted 689 of those (about 86%). Between 2011 and 2012, the Board received 964 applications; 734 applications were granted and 230 were denied. 
Getting a pardon in Alabama does not necessarily restore any civil rights which you have lost, unless the restoration is “specifically expressed in the pardon.” The Board of Pardons and Parole may grant you a “full pardon,” which restores all rights you have lost, or it may grant you a “pardon with restrictions.”
If you are given a full pardon (i.e. a pardon with no conditions attached), it also means the pardoned conviction cannot be used to enhance your sentence (i.e., give you a longer sentence) for any future criminal conviction. Unfortunately, the Board rarely grants full pardons.
If the Board grants you a pardon with restrictions, this simply means you have a pardon except some of your civil rights are not restored; for example, the pardon may say that you cannot own a gun or you must continue to register as a sex offender. In fact, the Board very rarely restores gun rights or releases sex offenders of their duties to register. However, other rights that the Board typically does restore are your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office. Furthermore, a conviction that has been pardoned cannot be used against you for deportation purposes.
The Board can put any other restrictions on your pardon as it deems appropriate. If you did not receive a full pardon, or if you received a pardon with restrictions which you do not like (for example, the Board does not restore your gun rights), you can re-apply two years later, unless the Board says otherwise.
Under federal law, if you have received a pardon from any state, the pardoned conviction cannot be used by federal authorities to prosecute you for “unlawful possession of a firearm” under federal law, unless the pardon specifically says you cannot possess a gun. However, just because you cannot be prosecuted under federal law does not mean you cannot be prosecuted under State law. Some states have stricter gun laws than federal law. If regaining your gun rights is important to you, make you sure make that desire known during the application process.
In most cases, federal immigration authorities cannot rely solely on a conviction that has been subject to a pardon for the purpose of deporting you from the country. If immigration is not an issue for you, this benefit is obviously irrelevant.
If you lost public office as a result of a felony conviction, a pardon does not give you your job back. Also, having a felony on your record permanently bars you from becoming a law enforcement officer in Alabama, even if you receive a pardon for that felony.
In addition, a pardon does not erase or expunge your conviction from your criminal record. Like most other states, a pardon in Alabama “forgives but does not forget.” In other words, getting a pardon does not make you “innocent” again; you are still guilty in the eyes of the law.
Alabama unfortunately does not have an option for you to expunge your convictions. This means that any arrest or conviction will continue to be part of your criminal history record even if you are granted a pardon. Furthermore, the conviction can still be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) should you ever become a witness in a future court proceeding. Nevertheless, your criminal record will reflect that you were granted a pardon.
If you are ever concerned that your pardon may be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, a trade or occupational license, then you may want to send the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of the pardon. The pardon is, after all, a strong official statement that you have been forgiven of the crime and found rehabilitated. Most employers and licensing agencies, and perhaps most landlords as well, will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon.
Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from state to state. If you receive a pardon in Alabama and then move to another state, that other state might take away your gun rights or require you to register as a sex offender again even though the pardon may have released you from those restrictions while you were living in Alabama. Fortunately, states tend to honor each other’s pardons.
- Alabama on Wikipedia
- Alabama State Bar
- ApplyForPardon .com - Pardon form completion service. Enter your information and get a neat and clean looking form sent to you.
- Record Clearing .org - post conviction information
- Ala. Cons. Amend. 38 (amending art. V § 124).
- Ala. Code § 15-22-36(c).
- Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole, Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.pardons.state.al.us/ALABPP/Main/ALABPP%20MAIN.htm.
- Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles Rules, Regulations, and Procedures, Article 8, Section 3 (promulgated March 21, 2001), http://www.pardons.state.al.us/alabpp/main/Rules.html#Article Eight; see also Hartwell v. Hogan, 242 Ala. 646, 7 So. 2d 889 (1942) (discussion of jurisdiction of the Board).
- The Sentencing Project, Alabama, Margaret Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Alabama.pdf
- Ala. Code § 15-22-23.
- See Ala. Code §§ 15-22-23 and 15-22-36(e).
- Ala. Code § 15-22-36.
- Ala. Code § 15-22-36.
- Ex Parte Casey, 852 So.2d 175 (Ala. 2002)(a fully pardoned conviction cannot be used to enhance sentence under Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act because the pardon blots out the existence of guilt, making the defendant, “in the eyes of the law, a new and an innocent man”)
- From FAQ section of Board website; need official citation.
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
- Ala. Code § 36-9-2.
- Ala. Admin. Code § 650-X-2-.05.
- Mason v. State, 103 So.2d 337 (Ala. Crim. App. 1956)(“Instead of blotting out the existence of the guilt of an offender, the very acceptance of a pardon is an implied acknowledgement of guilt . . . .A pardon cannot wipe out the historical fact of the conviction, and as appropriately stated by one court, it involves forgiveness, and not forgetfulness.”)(citations omitted), aff’d, 103 So.2d 341 (1958); see also Randolph County v. Thompson, 502 So.2d 357 (Ala. 1987)(accord).
- Johnson v. State, 421 So.2d 1306 (Ala. Crim. App. 1982), cert. denied, 439 So.2d 1340 (Ala. Crim. App. 1983).
- Ala. Rules of Evid. 609.