Alaska Pardon Information

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Authority

There are several types of clemency that are available in Alaska. The Alaska Constitution says the Governor “may grant pardons, commutations, and reprieves, and may suspend and remit fines and forfeitures.”[1] The pardon is obviously just one type of clemency in Alaska.

A pardon in Alaska relieves an offender from any further punishments and disabilities as a result of the conviction. A pardon is basically a forgiveness of the crime. However, as we discuss later, under Alaska law a pardon “forgives, but does not forget.” This means that even if you are granted a pardon, your conviction will still be a part of your criminal record.

There are essentially two types of pardons in Alaska: unconditional pardons and conditional pardons. If the Governor grants you a conditional pardon, she has the discretion to place any conditions she deems appropriate on your pardon.

Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, amnesties, parole or other types of clemency that may be available in Alaska here. We also do not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. You should talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.


Eligibility

You can only apply for a pardon for Alaska convictions.[2]The Governor of Alaska does not have the authority to grant you a pardon for a federal conviction or a conviction you received in another state.[2] The Governor will also not entertain with pardon applications for violations of municipal laws.

If you want a pardon for a federal conviction, you must do that through the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney (see our page on this site on federal pardons). If you want to pardon for an out-of-state conviction, you should find the appropriate page on this site dealing with pardons in that particular state.

You cannot apply for a pardon prior to receiving a judgment and/or being committed, nor may you apply for a pardon if you are still appealing your conviction or sentence. If the judge granted you a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS)[3], you will not be granted a pardon because Alaska law views a suspended sentence much like a pardon.

Most importantly, you will generally not receive a pardon until a significant period of time has elapsed since the time you were finally discharged from your sentence. Therefore, if you have not served any portion of your sentence, unless you have newly discovered evidence that you are innocent of the crime, forget about applying.

The Governor will expect that you have demonstrated “complete and total rehabilitation” since you were discharged from your sentence.ref name="AKExClem1">Executive Clemency in Alaska, An Informational Booklet for Prospective Applicants, http://www.correct.state.ak.us/corrections/Parole/pdf/clemencyhandbook.pdf</ref> Furthermore, you will need to demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances” for getting a pardon.[4]

Clearly, getting a pardon in Alaska is very difficult. The Governor hands out pardons very sparingly. In the twelve years between 1995 and 2007, the Governor(s) granted only two pardons.[2] As of 2012, the Board did not accept any applications for pardons or clemency [5]. However, this should not discourage you from applying. If you are unsure about your chances, you should go ahead and apply anyway, as there is no harm in doing so.

An example of an “extraordinary circumstance” might be you have been prevented from pursuing certain jobs, housing, trade or occupational licenses because of your conviction, and this has negatively affected your ability to earn a living to provide for yourself and/or your family. Another example might be you have you been an upstanding citizen for many years but are suddenly being placed in deportation because of a minor offense from many years ago, and you need the pardon in order to not be separated from your spouse and children.

The Application Process

You apply for a pardon directly with a body called the Alaska Board of Parole. There are no fees to apply. The first step is to complete and turn in an “Eligibility Determination” form. You can obtain this form by calling the Board directly at (907) 770-6310 or going on its website at www.correct.state.ak.us/corrections/Parole. The completed form must be sent to:

Alaska Board of Parole
ATTN: Clemency Determination
550 West 7th Ave., Suite #601
Anchorage, Alaska 99501

If you have an email address, indicate it on the form, as that is the Board’s preferred method of notifying you. Within 30 days, the Board will notify you whether you are eligible to proceed with the pardon application process. If you are eligible, the next step is to present a full Executive Clemency Application.

The Board will, at that point, provide you with the application and request all the information it needs. The application must be typewritten or fully completed in ink. You will be required to provide the date of each of your convictions, what each conviction was for, the court case number and the sentence you received for each conviction.

If you do not have sufficient information about a particular conviction, you should contact the arresting/enforcement agency involved in the case and/or the court where you were convicted. If you do not remember the details or whereabouts of a particular conviction, you should contact the Alaska Department of Public Safety, Records & Identification Unit, at (907) 269-5765 to obtain a statewide criminal report for yourself.

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.

If possible, you should also submit written references or letters from family members, friends, church members, teachers, employers, co-workers, and other individuals who know you well and can say good things about you to support your pardon application. It is better to choose individuals who are not related to you, in order 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. Remember, getting a pardon in Alaska is exceedingly difficult; you must make your application stand out.

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/Governor 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 and Governor are probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.

The Board will conduct its own investigation into your life. The Board will look into your employment and personal history (including your medical records if necessary); you will be required to sign waiver forms in order for it to do this. The Board will also look at the facts surrounding your conviction, including your progress report while incarcerated, as well as your arrest and conviction records for other offenses you have committed. Basically, your entire life history will be examined during the investigation stage. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board and its agents at all times.

If your conviction was a “crime against a person,” a domestic violence, or arson in the first degree, the Board will also give the victim an opportunity to present any objections in writing. You will not have to attend any hearings.

Once investigation is complete, the Board prepares a summary of its findings and then submits it to the Governor’s Executive Clemency Advisory Committee (ECAC). The ECAC is a 3-member body composed of the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General or some other person from the Department of Law, and a member from the public. The ECAC will review your application, and then prepare its own summary and recommendation to submit to the Governor along with your entire file.

The Governor then has the final say on whether to grant you a pardon. Remember that the Governor will grant you a pardon only if she finds “extraordinary circumstances” to justify doing so. If the Governor grants you a pardon, you will receive an original signed and sealed document indicating that you have received a pardon. A copy of this document will also be sent to the court that sentenced you and the Alaska Department of Public Safety for their files.

The entire process, from beginning to end, can take up to a year or sometimes longer. The whole process will take at least 120 days to complete.[2]


The Effects

As we indicated above, Alaska law forgives but does not forget. Even if you are granted a pardon, your conviction will still be part of your criminal record (which includes court and law enforcement records). In other words, the pardon does not make you innocent of the crime again. Nevertheless, the pardon will become a part of your record.

Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be able to apply to a court to have your conviction “expunged” or at least sealed, so that the general public cannot see it. You should talk to an attorney knowledgeable about record expungements if you are interested.

Although a pardon does not erase your conviction from your record, it does “set aside” your conviction. What this means that your pardoned offense can no longer be considered a “prior conviction” in any future criminal proceeding. The federal government cannot deport you solely based on a conviction that has been pardoned.

Also, if you are ever a witness in any future criminal proceeding in Alaska, the pardoned conviction cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility).[6] However, the facts giving rise to and leading up to that offense may still be considered by a court for purposes of sentencing for you any future convictions.

In most cases you automatically lose your right to vote and to serve on a jury in Alaska if you have been convicted of a felony.[7]

However, these rights are automatically restored once you complete your sentence (this includes any period of probation or parole).[8] In other words, a pardon might not be necessary if you are only interested in regaining these rights. 

If you are thinking about entering a particular trade or profession (such nursing, barbering, real estate, law, etc.), whether or not your pardoned conviction can be considered in granting you a license will depend on the licensing standard of that particular trade or profession. Because a pardon effectively “sets aside” your felony conviction, in most cases you can safely indicate “no” on a question that asks whether you have been convicted of a felony. On the other hand, if the standard is simply whether you are a person of “good moral character,” then the licensing board of that trade or profession can choose to ignore the pardon and consider your offense.

If you are ever concerned that your conviction will be a problem when you apply for a job or housing, you may want to send the employer or landlord a copy of the pardon so they know for sure that you have received a pardon. Although there are no laws in Alaska that forbid an employer or landlord from considering a pardoned conviction1[2]most employers and landlords will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon. The pardon is, after all, a strong official statement from the highest executive officer of the State forgiving you of the crime and essentially declaring you a rehabilitated individual again.

In Alaska, you cannot possess a firearm that is concealed or capable of being concealed for 10 years after you have been convicted of a felony, whether it is a state or federal felony and regardless of what state it is from.[9] Once you receive a pardon for that particular conviction, it is a defense to prosecution for unlawful possession under Alaska law.[10] In other words, the pardon would restore your ability to own a gun in Alaska.

However, that does not necessarily mean that you will be able to obtain a gun permit or not be prosecuted under the law of another state if you move outside of Alaska. The effects of a pardon can vary from state to state. Whether or not another state will recognize your pardon for purposes of gun rights is up to the law of that state. Fortunately, states tend to honor each other’s pardons.

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.[11] 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 sure you make you desire known during the application process.

Finally, 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.

External Links

References

  1. Alaska Const., Art. III, § 21; see also Alaska Stats. 33.20.070 (‚ÄúThe governor may grant pardons, commutations of sentence, and reprieves, and suspend and remit fines and forfeitures in whole or in part for offenses against the laws of the State of Alaska or the Territory of Alaska.‚Äù).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 The Sentencing Project, Alaska, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Alaska.pdf.
  3. SIS is a judicial remedy found in Alaska Stat. § 12.55.085 et seq.
  4. Executive Clemency in Alaska, An Informational Booklet for Prospective Applicants, http://www.correct.state.ak.us/corrections/Parole/pdf/clemencyhandbook.pdf
  5. Nancy Daugherty, Office Assistant
  6. Alaska Rules Evid. R. 609.
  7. Alaska Stat. §§ 09.20.037(1) and 15.05.030.
  8. Alaska Stat. §§ 09.20.020.
  9. Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200(a)(b), & (g).
  10. Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200(b) & (g).
  11. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).