Arkansas Pardon Information

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Authority

As in most other states, there are several different types of executive clemency in Arkansas. The pardon is just one type of clemency. The Arkansas Constitution gives the Governor the power to “grant reprieves, commutations of sentence, and pardons.”[1]

Although the Governor has the final say on all pardon applications, the Arkansas Parole Board is the government body which you submit your application to. Arkansas law says that all pardon applications must be referred to the Arkansas Parole Board for an investigation before it is submitted to the Governor.[2] The Parole Board consists of seven members who have been appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, and they each serve a seven-year term.[3]

Because of the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss reprieves, commutations, amnesties, remission of fines, parole or other types of clemency that may be available in Arkansas 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 your situation.


Eligibility

The law appears to be silent on who may apply for a pardon in Arkansas. [4] It appears anyone can apply for a pardon, even those who are currently incarcerated (in prison) on a sentence of death or life imprisonment.5[5]The rule of thumb is if you are unsure whether you qualify for a pardon, you should go ahead and apply; there is no harm in doing so.

Of course, 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. Just to give you an idea, between 2003 and 2004, the Parole Board/Governor received about 400 pardon applicants, and 40-50% of those were granted.[6] In 2012, 365 applications were received. 85 pardons were granted. [7]

The Application Process

There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Arkansas. The first step is to submit an application to the Arkansas Parole Board. The Parole Board has conveniently created a simple, self-explanatory pardon application form for you to fill out. The form can be found on its website at http://www.arbop.org/forms.html. If you have a difficult time accessing the Parole Board’s website or the form itself, you can call the Parole Board directly at (501) 682-3850 or write to:

Arkansas Parole Board
Two Union National Plaza Bldg.
105 W. Capitol Avenue, Suite 500
Little Rock, AR 72201

The application form specifically asks you to indicate whether you want your gun rights restored. If you want your gun rights restored, your crime must be at least eight years old and must not have involved any weapons.[8] You must also have the County Sheriff in the county where you reside fill out a small form, which is included at the end of the application. If you have any questions about the application process, don’t be afraid to call the Parole Board at the number above.

You will be required to sign the application form under oath—which means it must be signed in front of a notary public. Most banks have a notary public who may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether you have an account with that bank.

You are required to submit along with your application a certified copy of the judgment order, commitment order, or docket sheet for the conviction you want pardoned. This can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the court where you received your conviction.

If you do not remember the details or whereabouts of a particular conviction, you should contact the Arkansas State Police at (501) 618-8500 to find out how you can obtain a criminal report for yourself, so that you can identify the county and court where you received the conviction.

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 convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.

You are allowed to submit letters of recommendation. You should definitely take advantage of this opportunity. Have friends, family members, church members, teachers, a neighbor, your boss, a co-worker and others who know you well write letters of support. The letters should tell the Parole Board how the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you are deserving of a pardon. It is better to choose individuals who are not related to you, to avoid the appearance of bias.

The letters would have more credibility if they are also notarized, although this is not required. A notary public can be found in most banks; they usually charge a small fee, depending on whether the person has an account with that bank. The writers must indicate their current address and daytime telephone numbers in the letters.

Additionally, 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, it would 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/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 excessive 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.

Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your application, including all supporting letters and documents, must be sent to the following address:

DCC Institutional Release Services (IRS)
Pardon Department
P.O. Box 8707
Pine Buff, AR 71611

After the Parole Board receives your application, it will conduct an investigation into your case. During investigation, the Parole Board may subpoena witnesses to appear, testify, and bring to it any relevant evidence it may need. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Parole Board and its agents at all times.

If a hearing is held, you as well as the victim will be notified of the date, time, and place of the hearing. You should not only attend but also have your friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and others in your community attend to show their support. You should dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a hearing (this means, for men, a suit and tie). The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Parole Board not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community.

The Parole Board is required to solicit the written or oral recommendation of the court, the prosecuting attorney, and the county sheriff who were involved in your conviction and incarceration.[9] Depending on the crime you were convicted of, the Parole Board may also notify the victim and solicit the victim’s oral or written recommendation.[10]None of these recommendations are binding on the Parole Board’s final decision whether or not to recommend you for a pardon. [11]


After investigation is complete, the Parole Board will submit a report along with a recommendation to the Governor whether to the grant or deny your application. At least 30 days before submitting its recommendation to the Governor, the Parole Board must issue a public notice of its recommendation. The Governor generally follows what the Parole Board recommends but is not required to do so.

Once the Governor receives the Parole Board’s recommendation, he or she has 240 days to grant or deny your application; if no action is taken within that 240 days, your application is deemed denied.[12] If the Governor grants you the pardon, a notice will be sent out to various government officials and maybe even the victim.[13]

If your pardon is denied, you can re-apply in four years.[14][14] If you are serving a life sentence without parole, then the waiting period is six years after the denial.[15] If the denial was because the Governor did not act within the 240 days, then you can re-apply immediately.[16] The waiting period to re-apply can be waived in certain situations.[17]

The whole process from beginning to end can take up to a year or even longer. The length of the process depends on the circumstances of each individual applicant.


The Effects

Once the Governor grants you a pardon, the Governor will notify the court that sentenced you and the court will issue an order expunging the records relating to your pardoned conviction.1[18]A pardon does not expunge records of a sex offense, an offense where the victim was under[19], or an offense that resulted in death or serious physical injury.18

However, a pardon will release you of the duty to continue registering as a sex offender if you have been doing so because of the conviction. [20]

Of course, if you have other convictions which require you to register as a sex offender and which have not been pardoned, then you will be required to continue registering as a sex offender. 

Keep in mind that to have a record “expunged” in Arkansas simply means it will be sealed and treated as confidential; it does not mean physical destruction of the file.[21] Nevertheless, once “expunged,” the only people who can access your sealed conviction records are you, your attorney, a criminal justice agency (if you are seeking employment with them), a court and a prosecuting attorney in a future criminal proceeding.[22] This limited access means that, once expunged, your pardoned conviction is no longer open to the general public to see.

Note that if you were given probation for your offense, you may be able to have the charges dismissed and the records of the case expunged (i.e., sealed) after you complete probation, without the need to first obtain a pardon.2[6]You should talk to an attorney if you think you qualify for this option.

Once you are granted a pardon, the underlying offense is treated as though it never happened. [23]

Therefore, you can state on any application that you never committed that offense.[23] 

Also, once you receive a pardon, your conviction cannot be used against you in an application for a license, registration, or certificate—with the exception of certain types of licenses, such as a teaching, nursing, or physician license. [24]

Your conviction also cannot be used to enhance your sentence in any future criminal case or to attack your credibility if you are ever a witness in any future criminal trial (provided you were not convicted of another felony after receiving the pardon)2[25]

Once you are granted a pardon, you will also have most if not all of your civil rights which were lost restored. This includes your right to vote and serve on a jury.[26] In fact, your right to vote is generally automatically restored the moment you complete your sentence.[6]


Furthermore, in most cases the federal government cannot rely solely on a conviction that has been subject to a pardon in order to deport you from the country. However, if you merely receive an “expungement,” the conviction can still be used against you for deportation purposes.

In Arkansas, you lose your right to possess a gun if you have been convicted of a felony.[27]A pardon only restores your gun rights if the Governor specifies in the pardon that they are restored. Again, you will not have your gun rights restored if the conviction is less than eight years old and/or involves the use of a weapon.[27]

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.[28] 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, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from state to state. Whether another state will recognize your Arkansas pardon when you move there will depend on the laws of that state. For example, if you receive a pardon in Arkansas 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 if those restrictions were removed when you were still living in Arkansas. The good news is that states tend to honor each other’s pardons.

External Links

References

  1. Ark. Const. art. VI, § 18.
  2. Ark. Code § 16-93-204.
  3. Ark. Code § 16-93-201.
  4. See The Sentencing Project, Arkansas, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Arkansas.pdf
  5. Ark. Code § 16-93-607.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The Sentencing Project, Arkansas, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Arkansas.pdf
  7. Ruth Taylor, Department Coordinator.
  8. Ark. Code § 5-73-103.
  9. Ark. Code § 16-93-204(d)(1).
  10. Ark. Code § 16-93-204(d)(2).
  11. Ark. Code § 16-93-204(d)(4).
  12. Ark. Code § 16-93-207(b).
  13. Ark. Code § 16-93-207(a).
  14. 14.0 14.1 Ark. Code § 16-93-207(c)(1).
  15. Ark. Code § 16-93-207(d).
  16. Ark. Code § 16-93-207(c)(2).
  17. Ark. Code §§ 16-93-207(c)(3) & 16-93-207(d)(3).
  18. Ark. Code § 16-90-605(a).
  19. Ark. Code § 16-90-605(b).
  20. Ark. Code § 12-12-905.
  21. Ark. Code § 16-90-901.
  22. Ark. Code § 16-90-903.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Ark. Code § 16-90-902.
  24. Ark. Code § 17-1-103; Ark. Code § 17-95-307.
  25. Neal v. State, 320 Ark. 489 (Ark. 1995); Ark. Rules Evid. 609.
  26. Ark. Code § 16-31-102.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Ark. Code § 5-73-103.
  28. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).