Maryland Pardon Information

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The Maryland Constitution gives the Governor the “power to grant reprieves and pardons, except in cases of impeachment.”[1]He also has the power to “remit fines and forfeitures.”[1] In granting a pardon, the Governor can place any conditions, limitations, or restrictions on the pardon as he deems proper.[2]

The Legislature has created a body called the Maryland Parole Commission, whose duty is to review pardon applications and make recommendations to the Governor.[3] The Commission is made up of ten members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.[3] Each member serves a six-year term.[2]

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


If you are currently incarcerated (in jail or prison), you are not eligible to apply for a pardon.[4] If your crime was a misdemeanor, you must have been crime-free for a period of at least five years since you completed your sentence (including release from jail, prison, parole, probation, etc.) before you can apply.[4]

If your crime was a felony, you must have been crime-free for at least ten years since the date you completed your sentence (released from prison, parole, probation, etc.).[4] However, if your felony offense was a crime of violence or a controlled substance crime, you must have been crime-free for at least twenty years since you completed your sentence.[4] The Maryland Parole Commission, at its discretion, may reduce the waiting period down by a few years in specific cases.[4]

You can only get a pardon for a Maryland State conviction.[5] 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.

The rule of thumb is if you are unsure whether you are eligible to apply for a pardon, you should go ahead and apply. There is no harm in doing so.

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, in the two and one-half years between August 2003 and March 2006, the Governor received 280 pardon applications; the then-Governor (Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.) granted 150 of those and denied 135. In other words, a little more than 50% of pardon applications were granted during that time frame. In 2012, 156 pardon applications were received. 37 pardons were granted and 199 applications were denied.[6]

The Application Process

There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Maryland.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, the Maryland Parole Commission has not made its pardon application forms available on the Internet. In order to apply for pardon, you must write to the following address and ask for an application form to be sent to you:

Maryland Parole Commission
Attn: Pardon Application
6776 Reisterstown Road, Suite 307
Baltimore, MD 21215-2343

You can also call the Commission at 410-585-3200 or toll free at 1-877-241-5428. Ask to speak to the “Pardon Application Coordinator.” The Commission might just mail or email you the application materials if you call them. (Note: if you want your gun rights restored, you should make this known to the Commission, as there may be a separate application process you need to go through for that purpose.)

We highly suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon. Simply saying you want a clean criminal record again is not enough. Tell the Commission/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and/or your family. For example, explain how you have been denied housing or employment opportunities because of your conviction, and how this has prevented you from providing your family and you an adequate standard of living.

If you are facing deportation because of a conviction, explain how being separated from your family will negatively affect you as well as them. If you are pursuing a career in a field that requires you to obtain a pardon, submit documents, letters, or other proof from a prospective employer, licensing agency, or attorney verifying this necessity. If you need to regain your gun rights, explain why you need this—for example, you are pursuing a career that requires the use of firearms, or you want to take part in your family hunting traditions, or you simply want to feel more secure and able to defend yourself and/or your family after a recent traumatic event.

Also indicate on your personal statement all the positive things that have occurred in your life—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 proof of your rehabilitation and good character. Explain what your future plans are and how a pardon would help or hinder those plans.

In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Commission/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 arguing away your guilt. Whatever you feel about the crime, you had already been found guilty. The Clemency Board/Governor 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.

If possible, you should also have friends, family members, a past or present employer, your minister, church members, co-workers, and others in your community write letters of recommendation for you. These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon. The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes. If possible, you should choose individuals who are not related to you, in order to avoid the appearance of bias.

After it receives your completed application, the Commission will conduct a comprehensive investigation into your life. This may include a looking into your entire criminal history, your social, medical, psychological, and psychiatric history, your prison records, your credit history, your educational and employment history.

The Commission may also do a personal interview on you and those around you. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Commission at all times. The whole point is to see if you have been rehabilitated and have successfully adjusted to the community.[7] In making its recommendation to the Governor, the Commission will consider the nature and circumstances of your offense, the effect a pardon would have on the victim and community at large, the sentence you were given, any anti-social behavior you may have, your rehabilitation record, your age and health, and your reasons for seeking a pardon.[4]

The Commission may or may not hold a hearing on your pardon application. If a hearing is held, you should make every effort to be there. Bring witnesses there to offer emotional support and maybe even testify in your support. Needless to say, you must look and act appropriately; dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial (this means, for men, a suit and tie). The hearing is a good opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Commission not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community.

The Commission will deliberate in private on your pardon application.[8] After that, it will make a recommendation to the Governor, who has the final say or whether or not you receive a pardon. The Governor does not have to follow the Commission’s recommendations.

If the Governor grants you a pardon, by law he must issue an executive order, signed and with a seal, and must indicate whether it is a full pardon or partial pardon. [9]The Maryland Constitution also requires that before granting a pardon, the Governor must publish a notice in a newspaper to let the public know that you have applied for and have been granted a pardon.[1]

The Effects

A pardon primarily serves as an official declaration that you have been “forgiven” of the crime and to relieve you of any further legal disabilities because of the conviction.[5] Although a Maryland pardon technically “blots out” your guilt[10], it does not automatically erase or “expunge” your conviction from your criminal record. As in many other states, a pardon “forgives but does not forget.”

In other words, your pardoned conviction will continue to be part of your criminal history record. Your record will merely reflect that you have been granted a pardon for the particular offense.[11] This means you must still answer “yes” on any application that asks whether you have been convicted of that particular offense (although you can also say you have received a pardon for that conviction).

However, if you have only been convicted of one criminal act, AND it was not a crime of violence, AND you have received a full unconditional pardon for that conviction, then you are eligible to have your police, court, and other agency records pertaining to the offense expunged ten years after you receive the pardon.[12]

There are other circumstances under which you may be eligible for an expungement. [12] You should talk to a record expungement attorney if you are interested in having your arrest, conviction, or non-conviction records expunged. The process for getting an expungement typically involves submitting a formal motion or petition to the court where you were convicted.[12] Because of the formal and adversarial nature of court proceedings, you may want to retain the assistance of an attorney for it.

Once a conviction has been expunged, it cannot be accessed by the public, and employers and state licensing agencies cannot inquire about or consider it in their decisions.[13]Once a conviction has been expunged, you can also then deny that you have ever been convicted of that offense.[13]

A conviction that has been pardoned (whether or not expunged) cannot be used to attack your credibility if you are ever a witness in a future criminal proceeding.[14]

In Maryland, your voting rights are suspended only if you have been convicted of a felony and only during the time which you are in prison, on probation or parole.[15] A pardon would restore your voting rights, but in most cases the pardon is not necessary to do this. The moment your voting right is restored, your right to hold public office is also restored.[5]

Your right to serve on a jury in Maryland is only lost if you were sentenced to at least 6 months in prison for the conviction.[16] However, this right is automatically restored once you are granted a pardon. [16]

If you lost your gun rights as a result of a conviction, this right will be restored by a pardon as well. [17] 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.[18] 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.

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 were ordered to pay victim restitution as part of your sentence, a pardon will not release you from those payments.[19]The exception to this is if the Governor grants you a pardon because you were wrongfully convicted.[19]

If you were required to register as a sex offender because of a conviction, a pardon for that particular conviction would release you of your duty to continue registering as a sex offender.[20] Of course, if you have other convictions which require you to register and which have not been pardoned, you will have to continue registering.

Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from one state to the next. For example, if you receive a pardon in Maryland 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 the pardon lifted these restrictions from you while you were living in Maryland. Thus, you should always check with the laws of the state you move to rather than just assume that the benefits of the pardon moves with you across state lines. Fortunately, states tend to honor each other’s pardons.

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Md. Const. art. II, § 20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Md. Code, Corr. Servs. § 7-601(a)(2).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Md. Code, Corr. Servs. § 7-601(a)(2) § 7-206.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Maryland Parole Commission, Frequently Asked Questions,
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Sentencing Project, Maryland, Margaret Colgate Love,
  6. Linda Dodge, Maryland Parole Commission
  7. Md. Regs. Code tit. 12, § 08.01.16(C).
  8. Md. Regs. Code tit. 12., § 08.01.24(G).
  9. Md. Code, Corr. Servs., § 7-601(b).
  10. See Md. Code, Corr. Servs., § 7-101 (“‘Pardon’ means an act of clemency in which the Governor, by order, absolves the grantee from the guilt of the grantee’s criminal acts and exempts the grantee from any penalties imposed by law for those criminal acts.”); Maryland State Bar Association, Inc. v. Sugarman, 273 Md. 306 (Md. Ct. App. 1974)(“Pardon blots out the offense, and all of its forfeitures and sentences.”).
  11. See Mc. Code Crim. Proc., § 10-215.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Md. Code, Crim. Proc., § 10-105.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Md. Code, Crim. Proc., § 10-109.
  14. Md. Rule 5-609.
  15. Md. Code, Elec. Law, § 3-102(b).
  16. 16.0 16.1 Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 8-103.
  17. Md. Code, Pub. Safety, § 5-306.
  18. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
  19. 19.0 19.1 Md. Code, Corr. Servs. § 7-701(b)-(c).
  20. Md. Code, Crim. Proc., § 11-704(b).